Australia Northern prawn — Marine Stewardship Council
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Australia Northern prawn

Last Updated: 3 December 2015

MSC status

Certified as sustainable in November 2012. 


Brown tiger prawn (Penaeus esculentus)
Grooved tiger prawn (P. semisulcatus)
Blue endeavor prawn (Metapenaeus endeavouri)
Red endeavor prawn (M. ensis)
White Banana prawns (Fenneropenaeus merguiensis);
Red legged banana prawns (Fenneropenaeus indicus)
Australian Commonwealth Waters in FAO area 71
Fishing methods:  Twin, triple and quad otter trawl
Vessels:  52
Number of fisheries: 6

MSC assessment status

Please refer to the assessment downloads for further details. To contact the Conformity Assessment Body please click here.

More about prawn

The commercial penaeid prawns of northern Australia have been surveyed by electrophoretic techniques to determine the extent of geographic differentiation throughout their ranges in Australian waters. Genetic differences were detected among widely separated populations of Penaeus latisulcatus and Metapenaeus endeavouri, but P. esculentus, M. ensis, P. semisulcatus and Fenneropenaeus merguiensis showed no evidence of genetic differentiation. In both P. latisulcatus and M.endeavouri the most marked differences were detected between the samples from the Gulf of Carpentaria and Western Australia.

White banana prawns are caught mainly during the day in the Gulf of Carpentaria east of Arnhem Land and on isolated grounds along the Arnhem Land coast in < 20 m depth, whereas red-legged banana prawns are caught in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf in 45-85m. The white banana prawns form dense aggregations (‘boils’) that may be located by spotters in planes, who direct the trawlers to them. The highest catches are taken in areas offshore from the nursery areas based around the mangrove forests. Trawl times are considerably shorter than in the tiger prawn, lastingfrom 20 to 30 minutes.   Tiger prawns are taken mainly at night in the southern and western Gulf of Carpentaria and along the Arnhem Land coast. The tiger prawn fishing grounds are often close to those of banana prawns, but the highest catches are in areas near the nursery coastal seagrass beds—the habitats. Red endeavour and king prawns are caught as retained species of the tiger prawn sub-fishery. A daylight trawl ban is in place during the second (tiger prawn) season. The length of prawn trawls in the tiger prawn fishery may be for up to 3 hours.  Red-legged banana prawns are caught in deeper waters of the JBG. The sub-fishery takes place during neap tides with fishing only occurring for up to 14 days a month (on average).  The sub-fishery was closed during the first fishing season (the white banana prawn season) from 2007 to 2010 inclusive. Catches are usually higher from August to November

More about the fishing methods

The NPF comprises three distinct sub-fisheries: Tiger prawn multispecies sub-fishery (Brown tiger prawn (Penaeus esculentus), Grooved tiger prawn (P. semisulcatus), and Blue endeavour prawn (Metapenaeus endeavouri); Red endeavour prawn (M. ensis); the Banana prawn (Fenneropenaeus merguiensis) trawl sub-fishery; and the JBG Red-legged banana prawn (Fenneropenaeus indicus) sub-fishery. All sub-fisheries target prawns using twin, triple and quad otter trawls.   Prawn trawling is an active fishing method which involves towing a conical-shaped net spread open by two or four steel or timber otter boards over the seabed, commonly called otter trawling. Ground chains are also used on the nets to stimulate prawns into the trawl mouth. Vessels in the NPF may tow a range of nets in a variety of configurations. These are regulated by the Northern Prawn Fishery Management Plan 1995 (the Management Plan) and relevant Determinations. In addition to the main nets, a small “try-net” is also used to test the potential catches for a given area. All trawl nets (other than try-nets) in the NPF are required to be fitted with approved Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) and Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs).   Most of the vessels in the NPF are purpose built steel boats and range in length from 17 m to 28 m. All NPF boats have modern, sophisticated catch handling, packing and freezing capabilities as well as wet (brine) holding facilities. All vessels use electronic aids such as colour echo sounders and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and plotters. Satellite phones and fax equipment is used by most vessels and many have introduced on-board computing facilities, as well as electronic log books. All vessels are required by legislation to have an operational Vessel Monitoring System (VMS).

Fishery tonnage

In 2010 tiger prawn catches were 1,628mt, endeavor prawn 429mt and banana prawn 5,642mt

Commercial market

Domestic: fresh & frozen. International: frozen primarily to Japan & China.

Actual eligibility date

1 August 2012


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