With its white flesh and delicate flavour, ocean perch can be prepared in many ways.

The best cooking methods are grilling and barbecuing, poaching, shallow frying, baking and steaming.

Download our species guide on common species caught in AFMA managed fisheries.

Ocean perch at fish market


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


Scientific name: Helicolenus barathri, H. percoides

Family: Scorpaenidae

Other names:

  • H. barathri: Offshore ocean perch, bigeye ocean perch
  • H. percoides: Inshore ocean perch, reef ocean perch, jock stewart

Both are sometimes called coral perch, coral cod, red gurnard perch, red rock perch, red perch or sea perch.

Description: Ocean perch are pinkish-red with poorly defined brown bands on the body (offshore ocean perch) or orange-ish with dark bands on the body and small dark spots on the head (inshore ocean perch). They have a low spineless ridge running horizontally below the eye. Ocean perch have a few series of small spines on the top of the head and along the edge of the operculum (the hard bony flap covering the gills). The dorsal spines are venomous.

Size (length and weight): Depending on species, up to at least 40 cm (offshore ocean perch) or 30 cm (inshore ocean perch) in length and 1.4 kg.

Life span: Potentially up to 60 years.

Habitat: Ocean perch are a benthopelagic species that inhabits flat, hard seabeds on the continental shelf and upper slope. Inshore ocean perch is often found at depths of 80-350 metres. Offshore ocean perch is often found at depths of 250-350 metres.

Prey: Large benthic invertebrates such as squid, small fish (e.g. cardinal fish) and benthic crustaceans (e.g. royal red prawns).

Predated by: Sharks and marine mammals such as seals.

Reproduction: Females reach reproductive maturity at about 5 years of age, with male ocean perch reach maturity at 5-7 years of age. Spawning occurs over an extended period from winter to early summer, in June for reef ocean perch and slightly later for bigeye ocean perch. Spawning is distinctive in that fertilisation and larvae development is internal (i.e. ocean perch are lecithotrophic viviparous). Females produce 150 000‑200 000 eggs per spawning season. Larvae are extruded in floating jelly-like masses when they reach about 1 mm in length. Once extruded, the jelly-like mass dissolves to release the larvae. Inshore ocean perch are thought to retain larvae for longer than offshore ocean perch.

Other notes: Both species are found in Australia and New Zealand but there have been recent conflicting conclusions as to whether they are actually separate species.


Fishery found inGear usedCatch of this species is targeted or incidental
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Commonwealth Trawl SectorBottom trawl, danish seineTargeted
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Great Australian Bight Trawl SectorBottom trawlIncidental

Management of catch

The Commonwealth catch of ocean perch is managed by quota. Which means the catch of this fish by commercial fishers is restricted by weight.

Inshore ocean perch and offshore ocean perch are managed under a single total allowable catch, however both species are assessed separately. Catch limits are set every three years and restrict the weight of fish that can be taken by commercial operators.

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.

Area caught

Offshore ocean perch are caught at depths between 235-1100 metres along the south east coast of Australia with a separate population along the south west coast of Western Australia.

Inshore ocean perch are found on coastal rocky reef from the Queensland/New South Wales border to the south west coast of Western Australia and are caught in depths between 10-425 metres.

Fishing gear and environmental impacts

Fishers use trawl nets and danish seine nets to catch ocean perch.

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.

The danish seine method of fishing has minimal impacts on the environment as it does not come into contact with the seafloor.

AFMA carries out ecological risk assessments (ERA) for all of its major fisheries. The impact of bottom trawl nets on bycatch species and habitats has been assessed as part of the ERA. AFMA mitigates or reduces that impact through its ecological risk management (ERM) strategy. The ERM details a number of management arrangements and strategies which aim to reduce the impact of fishing on the environment. In the Commonwealth Trawl Sector, this includes 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 and spatial closures to protect vulnerable species and habitats.

Want to know more?

This is just an overview of ocean perch, 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

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

Environmental impactsBycatch and discard program

Eating and cooking – Visit the FRDC Fishfiles website for the best cooking techniques and recipes for this fish