Spawning, Recruitment and Life History Studies of Penaeus Esculentus (Haswell, 1879) in Torres Strait

P. J. Blyth, R. Watson, D. J. Sterling, (1990). “Spawning, Recruitment and Life History Studies of Penaeus Esculentus (Haswell, 1879) in Torres Strait.,” Torres Strait prawn project: A review of research 1986-88 (Queensland Fisheries, Brisbane, Australia) Chapter 5.

Penaeus esculentus, the brown tiger prawn, is endemic to Australian waters (Grey et al. 1983). It is found northward from southern New South Wales, through the Gulf of Carpentaria and around to Shark Bay ir Western Australia (Grey et al. 1983). Torres Strait is the most northerly extent of its distribution. Catchl P. esculentus form the main component of catches from the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery (Section 2). Except for the habitat utilized by the juvenile stage, in Torres Strait P. esculentus conforms to the penaeid life cycle as outlined by Garcia and Le Reste (1981 ). Juvenile P. esculentus in this region, use seagrass beds on reef-platforms as nursery areas (Section 4), and not estuaries as in other brown tiger prawn fisheries. Information on spawning and recruitment patterns of P. esculentus is essential to the implementat of management strategies such as temporal and spatial closures and effort limitation. However, there is life history information available for this species in Torres Strait. Studies on the reproductive activity of I escu!entus in the Gulf of Carpentaria (Crocos 1987, Buckworth 1985, Robertson et al. 1985) found main spawning periods from July-November. Other studies on P. esculentus in Torres Strait (Somers et al. 19: and the Low Islet region of the East Coast Prawn Fishery (O’Connor 1979) found a major spawning peril occurred in March. Information on P. esculentus recruitment patterns is confusing. Recruitment to the fishery of subadults ( < 26 mm carapace length) occurred from March-May in the Exmouth Gulf (Penn and Caputi 191 and November-March in the Gulf of Carpentaria (Somers et al. 1987b). In Torres Strait, Somers et al. (1987a) found continuous recruitment to the fishery of P. esculentus from March-September followed by decrease in December. The differences in spawning and recruitment periods between the Torres Strait, Queensland East Coast and the Northern Prawn Fisheries, poses a problem for fisheries managers with regard to blanket management policies for P. esculentus. This study provides biological information on spawning and recruiment timing of P. esculentus in Torres Strait. This information can be used to formulate management strategies designed to maintain high yields in the short term, and long term productivity of the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery.