Flatheads are superb table fishes, with finely textured flesh.
They are a popular choice for traditional preparation of a light battering, and served with chips and tartare or mayonnaise.
Scientific name: Neoplatycephalus richardsoni (also known as Platycephalus richarsoni)
Other names: King flathead, trawl flathead, deep-sea flathead
Description: Tiger flathead have an elongated body with a large flattened head and large eyes. They are light brown on the head, back and upper sides, with a white belly. Tiger flathead have light brown to orange-brown spots on the upper body and sometimes grey blotches on the sides. Tiger flathead have two spines on the side of their head, in front of the operculum (the hard bony flap covering the gills). The lower spine is longer than the upper spine.
Size (length and weight): Up to 70 cm in length and 3 kg. Commonly found at 35‑55 cm in length and 0.4‑1.3 kg. Females grow larger than males.
Life span: Up to about 15 years. Females live longer than males.
Habitat: Tiger flathead are a demersal species that is found at depths of 10‑400 metres. Juveniles inhabit shallow waters of the continental shelf and move into the deeper outer shelf zone as they reach maturity. They are not an active species and normally rest in areas of mud and sand on the sea bed during the day, and move into the water column at night to feed. There is evidence that mature fish migrate to shallower waters prior to the spawning period.
Feeding behaviour: Small fish and crustaceans.
Predators: Small fish. Cannibalism is common in larger individuals.
Reproduction: Tiger flathead reach reproductive maturity at 3-5 years of age. Spawning occurs over an extended period from spring to autumn, with some variation on the timing of spawning depending on location. Females produce 1.5‑2.5 million eggs per spawning season.
|Fishery||Gear||Catch of this species is targeted or incidental|
|Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Commonwealth Trawl Sector||Bottom trawl, danish seine||Targeted|
|Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Gillnet Hook and Trap Sector||Gillnet||Incidental|
Management of catch
The Commonwealth catch of tiger flathead is managed by quota and this means the catch of this fish by commercial fishers is restricted by weight. The quota includes catches of other flathead species but because tiger flathead make up about 95 per cent of the catch and the different species cannot be distinguished in historical data only tiger flathead is assessed.
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.
Tiger flathead are caught along the south east Australian coast from Coffs Harbor in New South Wales to Portland in Victoria, and have been reported as far west as the southern coast of Western Australia.
Tiger flathead are mainly caught in the Commonwealth Trawl Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery and smaller catches of tiger flathead are from the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector.
Fishing gear and environmental impacts
The main fishing method used to catch tiger flathead is bottom trawl and danish seine. They are also incidentally caught using gillnets.
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.
AFMA’s management of commercial trawl fisheries aims to ensure trawl fishing has the least impact possible on the environment.
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.
The danish seine method of fishing has minimal impacts on the environment. The most recent ecological risk assessment identified one species, the Australian fur seal, as at risk from danish seine fishing. There is currently a code of practice to minimise interaction with seals in this fishery.
The overall impact of danish seine fishing on habitats is quite low with only three identified as at risk. These habitats are generally on smooth bottom and support epifauna such as large sponges.
In the Commonwealth Trawl Sector, ecological risk management measures include minimum mesh sizes for bottom trawls to reduce the catch of small and juvenile fish, mitigation devices to reduce interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species and spatial closures to protect vulnerable species and habitats.