Fishing Patterns of the Torres Strait Fleet

R. Watson, P. J. Blyth, P. Channells, (1990). “Fishing Patterns of the Torres Strait Fleet.,” Torres Strait prawn project: A review of research 1986-88 (Queensland Fisheries, Brisbane, Australia). Chapter 3.

Commercial prawn trawling has occurred in Torres Strait since 1974 and now produces 1000 tonnes annually (Section 1 ). Three main species of penaeid prawns are taken commercially: Penaeus esculentus, the brown tiger prawn, Metapenaeus endeavouri, the endeavour prawn and P. longistylus, the red spot king prawn. P. esculentus and M. endeavouri together make up 90% of prawn landings for Torres Strait. P. esculentus dominates prawn catches and are the most sought after because the highest export prices are paid for this species. Fishing effort in the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery is concentrated in the early months of the year. This coincides with a peak in recruitment of small P. esculentus (Section 5). Prior to implementation of seasonal closures to fishing, fishing effort was more evenly applied throughout the year. The Torres Strait Prawn Fishery is subject to an international treaty which calls for joint catch-sharing and management arrangements between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Total allowable catch quotas, closed fishing seasons, vessel and gear restrictions and closed areas are employed in its management. The geographical extent of the fishery, the location of those areas currently closed and the areas of national jurisdiction are shown in Figure 1. Fisheries management requires detailed catch and effort data over a long time so that trends can be observed and possible population changes can be predicted, and the disaster of a failed fishery hopefully avoided. The Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) logbook data is the only source of information which permits analysis of spat~al and temporal trends of catch and effort in the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery (Section 2). Logbook records provide total effort (hours trawled) and catch (kg) data for P. esculentus, M. endeavouri, P. longistylus, and other unidentified species of prawns at a spatial resolution of about 11 km2. Records are available from 1980 to the present. This study examines the spatial and temporal fishing patterns of the Torres Strait prawn fleet from 1980-86 based on NPF logbook records and relates these fishing patterns to P. esculentus recruitment patterns (Section 5).