Commercial Fishery for Coral
Trout (Plectrodomus maculatus) (Plectropomus leopardus)
Coral reef fish
are caught by hook & line along the Great Barrier Reef from the Torres Strait
south to Fraser Island, from the inshore reefs to the outer reefs.
Commercial Fishing for Coral Trout:
Reef fish are harvested throughout the Queensland coast -
from the NSW border to the Torres Straits although most of the catch is
harvested in the waters between Bundaberg and Cooktown.
Coral reef fish are caught by hook and line along the
length of the Great Barrier Reef from the Torres Strait south to Fraser Island,
and from the inshore reefs to the outer barrier reefs. The main targets for the
line fishery are coral trout,
red throat emperor,
Spanish mackerel and red emperor.
More than 125 fish species are caught in the reef line
fishery, but only a few of them are targeted. These include coral trout species
Plectropomus spp., red throat emperor Lethrinus miniatus, Spanish mackerel
Scomberomorus commerson, red emperor Lutjanus sebae and several cod species.
Many other species are not targeted but are caught
incidentally and kept by fishers. These include tropical snappers such as
stripey sea perch
hussar Lutjanus adetti, Moses sea perch Lutjanus russelli,
Pristipomoides multidens, large-mouthed nannygai Lutjanus malabaricus and
small-mouthed nannygai Lutjanus erythropterus. These fish are called by-product
Tropical waters of northern Australia
All year round
To about 110cm
Australian Species Code
Firm white flesh. Excellent eating.
Coral trout makes up 40-45% of the total commercial
harvest of the commercial line fishing on the Great Barrier Reef, with
significant amounts of red throat emperor and Spanish mackerel also caught
(15–20% of the total harvest each).
The Queensland reef line fishery operates under the leading edge Reef Fin Fish
Management Plan, and is widely recognised as the best managed reef fish fishery
anywhere in the world.
Until 1993, all commercial catch of Coral Trout in
Australia was killed and marketed locally and internationally either as frozen
fillets, frozen gilled and gutted fish, or chilled whole fish. By 2000, however,
nearly half of the entire coral trout catch was exported as live food fish to
overseas markets in Hong Kong and south-east Asia. Restaurant prices in Hong
Kong for premium live fish such as coral trout can reach $A130 per kg at peak
times such as the Chinese New Year. This price is reflected in the price paid to
commercial line fishers in Australia so that the fishers can be paid up to three
times the price for a live fish compared with the same fish sold dead.
Video Showing The
Queensland Coral Trout Fishery:
How Commercial Line Fishers Work:
Most commercial line fishing operators work
from a large fishing vessel (about 10-20 m long), known as the main or primary
boat, from which one to seven fishers operate. The fishers usually fish from
smaller tenders, called dories, giving them much greater maneuverability near
the reef. The main boat provides transport to the reef, accommodation for the
fishing crew, and storage for gear and the catch.
Fish not destined for the live market are killed and placed on ice in the
dories. Throughout the day, the dories off-load their catch to the main boat
where it is filleted or kept whole. The product is then snap frozen or chilled
in a brine/ice slurry.
Fish destined for live export must remain in premium condition. When these fish
are caught, the hook is removed carefully, and the fish are put in flow-through
seawater tanks in the dory and later transferred to larger holding tanks on the
main boat until they are off-loaded in port, several days later.
Some fishing boats that work in remote areas may not return to port for months
and rely on supply ships to replenish supplies and transport their frozen catch
to buyers in port. Under current Queensland legislation, live fish must be
transported back to port by the fisher. All fish must be sold to a licensed fish
Coral trout exported live from Australia are freighted by air in oxygenated or
aerated bins. Air freight ensures that the supply of fish to Asia is regular and
reliable, and that the fish arrive
in premium condition.