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Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries (DPIF)

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Golden Snapper Tagging Program Update

[ 23/02/2012 ]

A golden snapper (Lutjanus johnii) tagging program being run by the Department of Resources (DoR) and the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the Northern Territory (AFANT) has passed a significant milestone, with over 1000 fish tagged to date. These fish are juveniles targeted in shallow estuarine waters less than 10m in depth to increase their survival rate for the tagging program.

There have been 80 fish recaptured so far with only six of these fish having been kept suggesting that the harvest rate of juveniles is quite low. The long term aims of the program are to establish where mature golden snapper move to when they move offshore, and to gather information on the harvest rates of adults to assess whether current fishing levels are sustainable.

Chris Errity, from the DoR Fisheries Division, says results highlight the vulnerability of golden snapper and that people need to reconsider the way they target reef fish.

“Results so far indicate golden snapper are very site attached; they do not travel far from their home reefs and therefore are susceptible to localised overfishing.”

“What we do know about golden snapper and almost all reef fish is that they suffer significant physical injuries/barotrauma when they are caught in water deeper than 10 metres and as a result they are susceptible to over-fishing even when many fish are released back to the water by fishers who think they are doing the right thing.

“We need to spread the message that golden snapper and other reef fish species shouldn’t be targeted for catch and release if you are fishing at a depth greater than 10 metres” Mr Errity said.

Key points worth remembering are:

  • Keep the fish you have caught until you have enough for your immediate needs within the possession limit, then move on, and target other species which can survive catch and release.
  • Returning undersize or less desirable reef fish in the hope of catching a trophy is not sustainable. You may end up catching and killing many fish before you catch what you want.
  • Use large non-offset circle hooks to eliminate small or juvenile reef fish from your catch. This also decreases the incidence of gut hooking.
  • Change locations if you are continually catching undersize or unwanted species.

If you catch a tagged golden snapper please let AFANT know the tag number, where and when you caught it, along with its length and the depth of water in which it was caught. A contact phone number, 1800 456 410, is printed on the tag. A Reidys fishing lure will be offered as a reward for each tag returned.

Several recreational anglers have assisted in this tagging program along with crew from Arafura Bluewater Charters.

For more information on golden snapper research please visit The NT Fisheries website at

For further information about this press release please contact Bill Whitington, Media Officer,
Executive and Communications Services. Phone (08) 8999 2013. Mobile 0409 640 859