Fishing

Wild Harvest and Aquaculture

Crab catch Carnarvon

The vast seagrass paddocks of both Shark Bay and the Exmouth Gulf are extremely fertile breeding grounds for prawns, and in Shark Bay for scallops also. Thus the Gascoyne is able to provide most of the State’s prawns and scallops.

Crabs, snapper, whiting and mullet are also commercially harvested in the region.

Seafood processing is the region’s principal manufacturing activity with factories in Exmouth, Carnarvon and Denham. Several producers supply export as well as local markets.

Aquaculture continues to develop in the Gascoyne with finfish and pearling operations based in the Shires of Exmouth, Carnarvon and Shark Bay.


Recent Studies

The Gascoyne and Pilbara Development Commissions, together with the WA Department of Fisheries, released a series of reports focused on the technical and economic viability of aquaculture within the marine and terrestrial environments of the two regions.

The technical and economic viability of aquaculture within the marine and terrestrial environments of the Pilbara and Gascoyne

Edible Oysters Aquaculture in the Pilbara and Gascoyne
A preliminary feasibility assessment

Pilbara Aquaculture Studies – Market Analysis
Edible Oysters, Yellowfin Tuna, Amberjack and Mahi Mahi

Aquaculture Prospects – Finfish Species
A study of the commercial feasibility of aquaculture in the Pilbara-Gascoyne regions using a finfish species.


Industry worth

The fishing industry contributed $56.7 million to the Gascoyne economy.

  • In 2014-15 the Gascoyne’s fishing industry generated approximately $43 million, contributing 9% to Western Australia’s total fishing industry value. This was the third highest regional contribution to Western Australia’s total fisheries value (Department of Fisheries 2015a)
  • Prawns constitute the greatest catch by weight and value (2,489 tonnes; $32 million – 74% of the Gascoyne’s fishing value in 2014-15) (Department of Fisheries 2015a)
  • Western Australia’s Exmouth Gulf and Shark Bay prawn fisheries have received the independent Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for sustainable fishing. MSC Press Release 2015

Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery (SBPMF)

  • The SBPMF is still the largest prawn fishery in Western Australia (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development 2018)
  • The SBPMF consists of 18 Licensed Fishing Boats using quad-rig demersal otter trawl gear (2014) (Department of Fisheries 2014)
  • In 2014, the SBPMF had an estimated annual value of more than $20 million and a target catch range of 1,350 to 2,150 tonnes per annum (Department of Fisheries 2014b)
  • The SBPMF’s primary target species are the brown tiger and western king prawns (Department of Fisheries 2014b)

Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery (EGPMF)

  • The EGPMF reached a maximum of 23 vessels in 1979 (Department of Fisheries 2014a)
  • The EGPMF currently (2014) holds 15 managed fishery licenses (Department of Fisheries 2014a)
  • In 2013, the fleet consisted of six boats using quad-rig demersal otter trawl gear (Department of Fisheries 2014a)
  • In 2014, the Exmouth Gulf prawn managed fishery had an estimated annual value of $7 million. The historic catch range is between 721 and 1410 tonnes per annum (Department of Fisheries 2014a)
  • The EGPMF’s primary target species are the brown tiger and western king prawns (with significant catches of blue endeavour prawns during fishing season) (Department of Fisheries 2014a)

Shark Bay Scallop Managed Fishery

  • In 2015, the Shark Bay Scallop Managed Fishery was the biggest commercial scallop fishery in Western Australia (Department of Fisheries 2015c).
  • The Shark Bay Scallop Managed fishery value and catches fluctuates on an annual basis and ranges from 121 – 4,414 tonnes and $2 – $68 million [dependent on scallop abundance] (Department of Fisheries 2011).

Crabs & Shark Bay Crab (Interim) Managed Fishery (SBCIMF)

  • The Gascoyne’s crab stock was estimated at 478 tonnes in 2014-15, at $5 million in value this represents 12% of the Gascoyne’s fishing industry value (Department of Fisheries 2015).
  • In 2015, the Shark bay crab trap (66%), Shark Bay prawn trawl (33.8%) and the Shark Bay scallop trawl (0.20%) sectors harvest the Shark Bay blue swimmer crab commercially [SBCIMF] (Department of Fisheries 2015b).
  • The capacity (kilogram crab – whole weight) of the SBCIMF for the first licensing period (November 2015 – October 2016) is proposed 450,000 kilograms (still able to be reviewed under additional research) (Department of Fisheries 2015b).

Fish

  • The Gascoyne’s fish stock was estimated at 703 tonnes in 2014-15. At approximately $5 million in value, this represents 11% of the Gascoyne’s fishing industry value (Department of Fisheries 2015a).

Aquaculture

  • The Gascoyne’s aquaculture industry makes up 8.5% of Western Australia’s value, the third highest regional contribution in Western Australia (Department of Fisheries 2015a).
  • The value production of pearls (maxima) contributed 98% of the Gascoyne’s aquaculture production in 2014-15 (Department of Fisheries 2015a).

Please download a Gascoyne Fishing and Aquaculture Investment Profile


For more information on Fisheries in the Gascoyne please visit the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development – Fisheries website.  The Gascoyne Bioregion: Status report of the fisheries and aquatic resources 2016/17 can be accessed here too.