Morwongs have creamy flesh with a distinctive flavour.

They are ideally suited to frying, baking, steaming or barbecuing whole (gilled and gutted).

Morwongs can be used in place of snapper or red emperor as an inexpensive centrepiece for a buffet.

Image of Jackass Morwong on ice


image icon of a fishing boat Fishing mortality
Not subject to overfishing
image icon of a fish Biomass
Not overfished


Scientific name: Nemadactylus macropterus

Family: Cheilodatylidae

Other names: Sea bream, jackass fish, perch, silver perch, squeeker perch, deepsea perch, mowie

Description: Jackass morwong are greyish silver on the upper body and silver white below. A broad grey to black ‘saddle’ extends across the back directly behind the head. The pectoral fins have a single long ray.

Size (length and weight): Up to 70 cm in length and 4.5 kg. Commonly found at 40‑60 cm in length and 0.9‑3 kg. Females grow faster and larger than males.

Life span: Usually up to 16 years. Females live longer than males. Can live up to about 40 years.

Habitat: Jackass morwong are a temperate demersal species that inhabits the continental shelf and upper slope. They can be found at depths of 10‑400 metres. Juveniles tend to live near shallow reefs. Jackass morwong have an extended pelagic post-larval stage known as ‘paperfish’, with metamorphosis into juveniles occurring after 9‑12 months. Feeding occurs at night.

Prey: Polychaete worms, crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms.

Predators: Likely preyed on by predatory fish, sharks and marine mammals.

Reproduction: Jackass morwong reach reproductive maturity at 3 years of age. Spawning occurs multiple times from late summer to autumn. Females produce 0.1‑1 million eggs per spawning season depending on their body size.

Other notes: Known as teraki or terakihi in New Zealand.


Fishery found inGear usedCatch of this species is targeted or incidental
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Commonwealth Trawl SectorBottom trawlTargeted
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Gillnet Hook and Trap SectorGillnetIncidental
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Great Australian Bight Trawl SectorBottom trawlIncidental

Management of catch

The Commonwealth catch of jackass morwong 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.

Jackass morwong can also be caught in the High Seas area. Australian boats fishing for jackass morwong in this area are limited in how much they can catch and where they can fish. They must have a High Seas permit authorised by AFMA.

For more information about jackass morwong stock assessments, refer to the Eastern report 2018 and the Western report 2018.

Area caught

Jackass morwong are distributed along the southern Australian coast including Tasmania.

Adults live close to the sea floor and are found on the continental shelf and upper slope in depths up to 450 metres.

They are most commonly caught at depths between 80 and 170 metres.

Fishing gear and environmental impacts

Bottom trawl is the main fishing method used to catch jackass morwong.

AFMA mitigates, or reduces, the impact bottom trawling may have on species and their habitats through it’s ecological risk management strategy.  Management arrangements and strategies that aim to reduce the impact of fishing on the environment include:

  • minimum mesh sizes for otter trawls to reduce the catch of small and juvenile fish
  • mitigation devices to reduce interactions with threatened endangered and protected species
  • closing some areas from fishing to protect vulnerable species and habitats.

Want to know more?

This is just an overview of jackass morwong, if you want to know more see the links below:

Sustainability – see the most recent Fishery status report

Management – this fish is managed under the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery and under the High Seas Fishery

Expert adviceSouth East Resource Assessment Group and the South East Management Advisory Committee

Environmental impactsBycatch and discard program