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Biomasses, catch rates and abundances of demersal fishes, particularly predators of prawns, in a tropical bay in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia

Abstract

The demersal fish fauna of Albatross Bay, in the eastern Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia, was sampled on seven cruises from August 1986 to November 1988, using a random stratified trawl survey. Four depth zones between 7 and 45 m were sampled during both day and night. The mean biomass of fish from all seven cruises was 297 kg ha−1 for days trawls and 128 kg ha−1 for night trawls. The overall mean catch rates were 922 kg h−1 for day trawls and 412 kg h−1 for night trawls. There were marked differences between cruises in both the biomass and catch rate. Approx 890 000 fish of 237 species were collected. Of these, 25 species comprised 82% of the total biomass and 74% of the overall catch rate. The dominant families were Leiognathidae, Haemulidae and Clupeidae, with Sciaenidae and Dasyatidae important at night.Leiognathus bindus was the most abundant species. Twenty-five species occurred in more than 50% of trawls, withCaranx bucculentus the most frequently caught (96% of all trawls). Thirty four species were predators on prawns; their absolute mean biomass was 50 kg ha−1 during the day and 39 kg ha−1 at night. The corresponding catch rates were 171 and 125 kg h−1. Multiple-regression analyses were used to discriminate the effects of diel, seasonal, depth and cruise patterns. Of the 31 most abundant species, 15 showed diel patterns of abundance; 11 species showed seasonal patterns of abundance; 23 species had differential depth distribution; and 13 species showed significant cruise-to-cruise variation in abundance. Cruise variations in abundance were tested against salinity, temperature, tidal exchange, plankton biomass and prawn abundances as well as periods (and lags) of total rainfall prior to sampling. Only total rainfall showed any significant correlation. Total rainfall over a period of 6 wk immediately prior to sampling showed significant positive correlations with the abundances of five species, with overall daytime catch rates, and with the suite of 34 prawn predators. Rainfall and river runoff into Albatross Bay were significantly correlated. In Albatross Bay, the complex of factors affecting fish abundances and the magnitude of between-cruise differences indicate that such tropical communities may be unpredictable and are not seasonally constant. The high catch rates in Albatross Bay relative to similar tropical areas elsewhere are discussed and attributed to the light exploitation of the Albatross Bay stocks. Other than a prawn fishery, there is no commercial trawling in Albatross Bay. Hence, the only fishing mortality is a result of by-catch from prawn trawling. The annual total of such fish by-catch is probably less than 10% of the estimated standing stock of 93 000 tonnes.

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Communicated by G. F. Humphrey, Sydney

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Blaber, S.J.M., Brewer, D.T., Salini, J.P. et al. Biomasses, catch rates and abundances of demersal fishes, particularly predators of prawns, in a tropical bay in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. Mar. Biol. 107, 397–408 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01313421

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Keywords

  • Biomass
  • Total Rainfall
  • Catch Rate
  • Demersal Fish
  • Trawl Survey