Gummy sharks have sweet and delicious flesh, and are popular for their boneless and thick flakes.
They are commonly used for the traditional “fish and chips” but should not be overlooked for barbecuing, poaching, braising and baking.
Scientific name: Mustelus antarcticus
Other names: Sweet William, Australian smooth hound, smooth dog-shark, white-spotted gummy shark
Description: Gummy sharks are a relatively small slender-bodied species with a short head. They are grey or grey-brown above and white below, with white spots on the back and upper sides. The second dorsal fin is nearly as large as the first dorsal fin. The mouth is short and angular with numerous rows of blunt, flattened teeth.
Size (length and weight): Up to 1.75 metres in length and 24.8 kg. Females grow larger than males.
Life span: Up to 16 years.
Habitat: Gummy sharks are a demersal species that inhabits the continental shelf from the near shore region to depths of 80-350 metres. They remain either on or near the sea bed. Newborn and juvenile gummy sharks aggregate in many areas across southern Australia, while young and adult gummy sharks are more widely distributed. Gummy sharks tend to aggregate by sex and size. Juvenile male and female gummy sharks have similar rates of movement, but females travel longer distances as their age increases.
Prey: Cephalopods, crustaceans, and occasionally fish.
Predators: Juveniles are known to be preyed on by broadnose sevengill sharks.
Reproduction: Gummy sharks reach reproductive maturity at 4-5 years of age, with males maturing at a smaller size than females. Females are ovoviviparous. Litters usually comprise of about 14 pups, but large females have been recorded producing up to 57 pups. Gummy shark are born during the summer months after an 11‑12 month gestation period.
Other notes: Growth in males is negligible after 10 years, whereas females continue to grow until the end of their lives.
|Fishery found in||Gear used||Catch of this species is targeted or incidental|
|Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Gillnet Hook and Trap||Gillnet, longline||Targeted|
|Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Commonwealth Trawl Sector||Bottom trawl||Incidental|
|State fisheries and recreational||Gillnet, longline, bottom trawl. Recreational rod and line.||Incidental. Targeted by recreational sector|
Management of catch
The Commonwealth catch of gummy shark is managed by quota. This means the catch of this fish by commercial fishers is restricted by weight.
Commercial fishermen are required to fill in records of their catches, during each fishing trip and when they land their catch in a port. This helps us keep records of how much is being caught.
AFMA decide on the amount that can be caught each year from expert advice and recommendations from fisheries managers, industry members, scientist and researchers.
Gummy sharks are found across the waters of southern Australia, extending from Bunbury in Western Australia to Jervis Bay in NSW.
They are found in shallow waters down to 80 metres depth (but sometimes as deep as 350 metres).
Fishing gear and environmental impacts
Gummy sharks are caught using gillnets, longlines and sometimes trawl nets.
Gillnets have a minimal impact on the seafloor as they are stationary when set. Gillnets have the potential to interact with marine mammals, although when set properly, larger predatory sharks and marine mammals will bounce off the firm netting.
Bottom set longline fishing causes very little damage to the seafloor and has only a very limited level of bycatch. Gear can become snagged on the bottom and get broken off, although this is not a common occurrence. Fish which have been caught are brought to the surface slowly, and are often alive when they reach the boat, which greatly increases their chance of survival when returned to the water.
Sometimes, bottom trawling can catch unwanted species of fish (not the type of fish the net was supposed to catch). This is known as bycatch and it is monitored by on-board fishery observers who assess the environmental impact of the trawling.
Although it is not physically possible to trawl on reef structures, significant long-term damage can occur if sensitive habitat areas like corals, sponges and seagrass beds are trawled. To ensure these sensitive habitat areas are protected from trawling, management arrangements such as area closures are extensively used.
In managing our fisheries we consider the impact that catching each species has on the environment through our Ecological Risk Assessment process. We work with the Department of the Environment to ensure that our fisheries meet strict environmental guidelines.