Environment’s role key

THE annual value of the Western Australian prawn export industry is more than $A35 million, with the remoteness and pristine environment contributing to the State’s enviable international reputation as a high-quality producer.

However, Department of Fisheries spokeswoman Dr Mervi Kangas said the annual mix of exports could be affected by particular environmental conditions.

The State’s commercial prawn fisheries in WA are based on four main species – western king, brown tiger, banana and endeavour.

King and tiger prawns remain the most valuable species and are exported primarily to Japan and South-East Asia.

The two main species in Exmouth are tiger and king prawns, but in the year following Cyclone Vance there was a decline in the catch of these prawns but an increase in the number of endeavour and banana prawns caught.

“You do see these patterns emerging due to unusual environmental conditions,” Ms Kangas said.

“In Exmouth, the highest quantity of banana prawns we’ve ever caught was 60 tonnes in 2000 – the year following Cyclone Vance.”

She said that, in 1999, after Cyclone Vance, more than 500t of endeavour prawns were harvested – a huge increase from an annual average catch of around 100t.

“Endeavour prawns tend to occur a little bit closer to shore than other species, however when Cyclone Vance came through [the increased rainfall] flushed the endeavour prawns out into other fisheries and had a very interesting effect on quantity that year,” Ms Kangas said.

“Environmental reactions with fisheries tend to have these unusual effects.”

Heavy rainfall provided the optimal conditions for banana prawns, Ms Kangas said, with higher-than-average banana prawn catches in the Exmouth Gulf coming in years of high rainfall.

Prawn exports comprise 8 per cent of the State’s annual $A370 million of crustacean exports.


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