22 February 2021

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) Commission has commended the decision by the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) consultative groups and NPF Industry Pty Ltd (NPFI) to close the Redleg Banana Prawn sub-Fishery in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf (JBG) from April to mid-June each year.

Starting 1 April 2021, NPF prawn trawlers will not fish in the JBG during the first NPF season. The seasonal closure for redleg banana prawns demonstrates a mature approach from NPFI, valuing scientific and economic analysis to ensure the fishery remains both profitable and sustainable.

Redleg banana prawns are caught in the remote JBG, west of Darwin. Over the last few seasons, there have been considerable fluctuations of catch and fishing effort, resulting in limited data to support stock assessments.

Recent research from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has highlighted that the combination of the species’ complex life-cycle, extreme tides in their breeding grounds and changing weather patterns create challenges for the redleg banana prawn stock and its management.

CSIRO was commissioned to conduct a management strategy evaluation to test a range of management options for redleg banana prawns. After considering the options, NPFI, CSIRO and AFMA all agreed that the seasonal closure of JBG was the best – and most precautionary – decision for the sustainability and economic returns of the sub-fishery. This decision is likely to stabilise fishing effort, add value to the fishery by catching larger prawns and improve the stock assessment process.

The NPF is Australia’s largest and most advanced prawn fishery and since 2009 has been under co-management arrangements between AFMA and NPFI. The decision to close part of the fishery was based on science and demonstrates the commitment of both AFMA and the NPFI to ensure the fishery remains sustainable for years to come.