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Sunfish Scientific Research 2014 to 2019
Written by Dr Barry Pollock
Created / Updated on Tuesday 30th of July 2019

In the period 2014 to 2019 Sunfish has supported four scientific research projects which have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals by the Sunfish Scientific Officer, Dr Barry Pollock. In these projects recreational fishers have made major voluntary contributions, and the projects were fully funded by volunteer recreational fishers. No government funds were sought or provided. This demonstrates the willingness of Sunfish, its associated recreational fishers, and recreational fishers generally to contribute to research and scientific knowledge of the fish they seek to catch.

Summaries of the findings of these four scientific research projects are given below. Details for obtaining the full papers are also given. A huge amount of time and effort has been provided on a voluntary basis to carry out and complete these scientific studies. All those who assisted, including staff at the Ecosciences Precinct, University of Queensland, Fisheries Queensland and NSW Fisheries, are sincerely thanked.

Dr Barry Pollock, Scientific Officer Sunfish, at the Ecosciences Precinct Boggo Road, using a microscope to examine flathead reproductive tissue samples.

Sunfish affiliated recreational fishers assisting a University of Queensland research project.

1. Saddleback in bream caused by a physical injury.

Original Article

Saddleback syndrome in yellowfin bream [Acanthopagrus australis (Günther, 1859)] in Moreton Bay, Australia: its form, occurrence, association with other abnormalities and cause†

B.R. Pollock

First published: 24 April 2015

The aim of this study was to determine if saddleback syndrome (SBS) in a wild population of yellowfin bream (Acanthopagrus australis) was the result of a developmental defect or caused by physical injury. Information was collected in 2012 on the incidence of SBS and other abnormalities in this species in Moreton Bay, Australia. Abnormalities in adult fish (>250 mm Total Length, TL) with SBS (n = 47) were compared with those without SBS (n = 30). A sample of juvenile fish (n = 404) was checked for the presence of SBS. The results show that scale loss, scale pattern misalignment, lateral line fracture and pectoral fin abnormality were closely associated with SBS. SBS was uncommon (<2%) in juveniles >70 mm TL, but common (>12%) in the larger juveniles (70 - 215 mm TL). These results, together with the findings that scale loss associated with SBS in adult fish occurred in the range 80 - 245 mm back‐calculated TL, indicate that SBS and the related abnormalities in yellowfin bream are a result of physical injuries to larger juveniles (>70 mm TL). The reduction in the incidence of SBS from approximately 12% in the larger juveniles to 5% in adults is evidence of mortality associated with SBS.

Specimens of bream supplied by QAFCA and SQAFCA recreational fishers.

A typical bream with saddleback. – caught by a recreational fisher in SE Queensland.

Copy of the full paper is on the Sunfish website: Editorials – Projects – Bream Project.

2. Large female dusky flathead >70cm make a minor contribution to egg production.

Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 2014, volume 119, pages 21-34.


Dusky flathead Platycephalus fuscus form seasonal spawning aggregations where estuaries meet the ocean in eastern Australia. The present study at Jumpinpin in south Queensland shows that dusky flathead have a protracted spawning period with serial spawning during summer (November to April). They are rudimentary hermaphrodites with sex determined at an early juvenile stage. Sex ratios are skewed with males most common in the smaller size-classes (< 50 cm TL). Mid-sized females (45cm - 69 cm TL) dominate the production of eggs due to their abundance in the spawning aggregation. Within the female component of the spawning aggregation, the occurrence of individuals exceeding the current maximum size limit of 75 cm TL is low (2.6%). Parasitic nematodes (philometrids) occurred in 8% of ovaries. Degenerated ovaries, in which atretic oocytes are common, are present in half of the very large females (70 cm - 75cm TL) examined. The current minimum size restriction of 40 cm TL for dusky flathead provides protection for 73% of males and 15% of females within the spawning aggregation.

Above: Degenerate (mushy) ovary from a large female dusky flathead.

Above: Running ripe ovary from a mid-size dusky flathead.

A copy of the full paper is on the Sunfish website: Editorials – Projects – Dusky Flathead Project.

3. Reduced population of Luderick in SE Queensland – resulting from increase in coastal water temperature.


Latitudinal change in the distribution of luderick Girella tricuspidata (Pisces: Girellidae) associated with increasing coastal water temperature in eastern Australia
B. R. Pollock

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(6) 1187-1192
Submitted: 19 January 2016 Accepted: 5 July 2016 Published: 17 August 2016


During the past two decades there has been a major decline in the luderick (Girella tricuspidata) population and fishery in the coastal areas of southern Queensland, Australia. This region is the northern limit of the range of luderick. An analysis of annual time series information from the luderick fishery and from sea surface temperature records from 1976 to 2015 found a moderate and significant negative correlation (Pearson r = –0.39, P < 0.05) between water temperature and population abundance in southern Queensland. Previous studies of juvenile and adult luderick indicate their sensitivity to elevated water temperature at the northern limit of their range, further supporting the hypothesis that declines in population abundance of luderick in southern Queensland are associated with increased water temperature. Other possible factors for the luderick population decline (overfishing and habitat loss) are discussed. Any future increases in coastal water temperatures in eastern Australia may result in further southward shifts of the luderick population, and may have similar effects on other fish species that have their northern range limits in southern Queensland.

A full copy of this paper may be purchased from the publisher. Go to:

4. Reproduction of female dusky flathead in the Clarence River, NSW.

Archives of Veterinary and Animal Sciences

Research Article
B. R. Pollock*
Sunfish Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Received: July 02, 2019; Published: July 15, 2019


The aim of the present study is to examine developmental changes of oocytes and ovaries of a wild population of dusky flathead Platycephalus fuscus (Cuvier, 1829). This fish is endemic to the east coast of Australia where it inhabits estuaries and coastal waters. It is extensively fished throughout its range. It is a serial spawning teleost, capable of producing vast numbers of externally fertilised eggs in batches over a protracted annual spawning period. Successful egg production, as indicated by the presence of hydrated oocytes and post ovulatory follicles, is commonly observed in small and mid-size females (35 cm – 65cm Total Length; 2 – 6 years old) which numerically dominate the female component of the spawning aggregation. Oocyte atresia, at various levels, commences at the vitellogenic oocyte stage, and occurs in all mature fish during the spawning period. Mass oocyte atresia and degenerate ovaries were commonly observed in large fish (>70 cm Total Length and 7 years old), indicating that reproductive senescence occurs after females reach this size.

This paper is available, free of charge, at:

Brief Summary - Dusky Flathead female reproductive biology
1. Dusky flathead do not change sex from male to female. Sex is determined at the juvenile stage and individuals maintain that sex. However there is a marked sexual dimorphism with females growing to a much larger size than males.

2. Mature females range in size from approximately 35cm to 100cm Total Length. However the mid-size females numerically dominate this component of the dusky flathead population. For example in the Jumpinpin study fish over 75cm made up 2.6% of the female spawning aggregation, and Gray and Barnes in the NSW study report an even smaller proportion of females fish over 70cm. Due to their relative abundance, the mid-size females dominate egg production - the large females >70cm, although potentially capable of producing large amounts of eggs by individuals, make a very minor contribution to egg production by the total female spawning population.

3. The Sunfish studies of spawning aggregations at Jumpinpin and Clarence River found mass atresia commencing in females over 70cm, indicating reproductive senescence. Therefore to combined effects of low relative abundance and reproductive senescence results in very low levels of egg production by large females >70cm.

4. How important are "super spawner" dusky flathead? The recent debate in the journal Science covered the super spawner topic. A very highly regarded stock assessment scientist made the comment: Ray Hilborn, a fisheries biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, argues that because superspawners are relatively rare, even in unfished populations, their overall contribution to the population is not particularly great. Accounting for superspawners would make little difference to how you manage a fishery. This view is supported in the case of large female dusky flathead, based on the recent scientific research.

Fishing Blackmarketing
Written by Bruce Alvey
Created / Updated on Thursday 25th of April 2019

I think you will all be aware that the term "Recreational Fisherman" has been used by Fisheries Queensland in describing the participants in black marketing operations of fish for too many years. After writing to the Minister again, Sunfish has been contacted by the Minister of Fisheries Hon. Mark Furner who has assured us this will be changed in future. People carrying out these illegal activities will be referred to as just "Fishers"

We thank the Minister for supporting this change.

However, while we are talking about this subject, I would like to ask all fishing groups in Queensland to remind their members and friends that breaking the fishing regulations can carry heavy penalties. So always measure your fish and observe possession limits which do change occasionally - so be aware. (Eat your fish in the freezer regularly, do not let it build up.) . The law also states “possession of fish” so you can be prosecuted for excess fish or illegal fish regardless of the circumstances.

In Queensland it is illegal for recreational fishers to use your catch for any type of financial gain. You can give your fish away but remember you are responsible for the quality of this fish and any repercussions this act may cause. Giving away fish with any expectation of “reward” is also illegal as is “bartering” fish for services. You cannot raffle recreationally caught fish to raise funds for any reason. (This is legal in NSW for “Charities” but not in Qld.)

Thank you for your support and for participating in a wonderful healthy activity which can be fun for the whole family and provide one of the best meals you can eat.

Good Fishing.

Kind Regards
Bruce Alvey
Chair Sunfish Queensland Inc.

2017-18 Sunfish Kids Fishing Days Final Report
Created / Updated on Friday 14th of September 2018

This year the weather was considerably more favourable to us. Kid’s Fishing Days were run covering coastal, estuarine, fresh water and impoundments. These events were attended by 1283 kids, 308 instructors and coaches and 554 parents and carers. Each child attending received tackle specific to the local conditions. There were taught how to both use that tackle and care for it. On the days, lunch was provided and varied from the traditional sausage sizzle to red claw on the barbie caught that day.

It is impossible to pick out a group that had the most fun. Smiles were enormous on all the faces. In this report I have included a selection of the individual reports from events. From the photos you can see that there was a large cross section of children covering, boys and girls, indigenous and also those from socially, physically and emotionally disadvantaged sectors. For those last three groups, these days are probably the most important.

As an aside, modules from our Level 1 Instructor’s course, that include the templates on which our kid’s fishing days are run have this year been included in the national angler education resource database.

Sunfish Queensland wishes to acknowledge the valuable support provided by the provision of this grant funding. Educating our next generations on the valuable resource that they need to protect is extremely important. Equally important is the ability to pass traditional knowledge and skills onto children that may not have those in their family networks that are able to do so, given the changing demographics in our society. We also can’t forget the tremendous opportunities provided for families with children who have difficult circumstances. These families are discovering a pastime that they can enjoy as a unit, irrespective of physical or emotional disadvantages.

Kids Fishing Day area the jewel of Sunfish’s activities. These young minds soak up all the skills and messages that can be delivered to them. We certainly appreciate that Fisheries Queensland also acknowledge the value in nurturing this conduit back into communities by continuing to support this program.

As you can see from some of the emails that have been included, these communities look forward to these events every year. It is a great testament to our volunteers that they keep their enthusiasm going year after year.

Feedback from attendees, parents, carers, coaches and instructors was unanimously supportive and constructive. In that vein I need to forward on the thanks to Fisheries Queensland and the Minister that were directed through us on the value of this program to their communities.

... To read the rest of the article, please download the 33 page PDF document ...

Filesize : 7,157 KB   Date : 14 Sep 2018 15:52
News Article

Created / Updated on Monday 21st of May 2018
Photos / Files Available
A group of very concerned recreational fishers got their boats ready on Friday and met at Blue Fins Fishing Club Inala to voice their significant worries about reductions to their existing catch possession limits and then proceeded to convoy onto the Premiers electorate office in Richlands.

Recreational fishers have been supporting the current Sustainable Fisheries Strategy. They, like many others, including Fisheries Queensland believe that the current fisheries management protocols are many years past being overhauled. The current system is strongly based on an antiquated perception that there are never too many harvesters on the water. We now have a commercial fishing industry that has far too many operators that are using their licences only during spawning aggregations to top up their other incomes because there are too many of them to all have profitable fishing businesses.

What was expected was that a line wold be drawn in the sand and for each species the existing data would be used to calculate current catch share amongst all sectors: commercial, recreational, indigenous and conservation (theirs stay in the water?). If a species was then identified as in trouble everyone would take an equal hit based on their catch share.

However, in the last week it has become apparent that within Fisheries Queensland there is a separate personal agenda being driven very forcefully to reallocate a considerable portion of the existing recreational catch to the commercial sector before the starting gate has even opened. Small meetings have been held across the state where total possession limits of 3 mud crabs or 15 fish of a species have been very heavily pushed by Fisheries Qld staff. This contradicts the information put out by the department in the discussion papers.

Grassroots recreational fishers are so concerned that they will be breaking proposed rules in order to put a decent feed of fish on the table for their families that they presented a letter to the Premier’s office outlining their concerns. Given that this information has only been available for little more than a week, the turnout of more than 30 boats and at least 70 fishers on a weekday indicates just how distressed many of them are. I expect that this sentiment will only increase across the state in the weeks to come,

For further information please contact Martin Cowling on 0427 011 507

Kids Fishing Day 2017
Created / Updated on Wednesday 20th of September 2017

With funds provided by Fisheries Queensland we were once again able to conduct our Kid's Fishing Program. Due to their popularity we needed more instructors so ran our 12th Level 1 Angler Education Course. This year our Level 1 Angler Ed Instructor Course saw 12 new instructors complete their training. The course was held at Kedron Wavell Services Club and all graduates have since run respective events.

This program we saw 1374 children attend an event with 776 parents or carers assisting and 321 coaches and instructors. We have now seen 30 events run across Moreton Island, Caloundra, Croydon, Georgetown, Toowoomba Barra Farm, Lake Cooby, Charters Towers, Camooweal, Julia Creek, Mt. Isa, Tin Can Bay, Paradise Dam, Bribie Island, Wivenhoe, Deception Bay, Roma St Parklands, Callide Dam, Southport, Quart Pot Creek, Raby Bay, Hayes Inlet, Paradise Point and Dawson River. As you can see they cover saltwater and freshwater and range from south east Queensland to the far north, the Gulf and the west.

The events run have been located across the length and breadth of the State and have also penetrated into most socio-economic groups.

It was a great year with respect to favourable weather and attendance. It was also encouraging to see new organizations running events.

Feedback from attendees, parents, carers, coaches and instructors was unanimously supportive and constructive. In that vein I need to forward on the thanks to Fisheries Queensland and the Minister that were directed through us on the value of this program to their communities. For more information please download the 23 page PDF report

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