Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery

Share class fact sheets

New rules will apply in most share classes from 1 December 2017. Fact sheets are available for each share class detailing the new share linkage arrangements and proposed new rules.

Prawn trawler

What's new

Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery

The Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery uses otter trawl nets to target school prawns and eastern king prawns in three estuaries in NSW, (the Clarence, Hawkesbury and Hunter Rivers). Overall, school prawns comprise a major part of the total fishery catch, with the proportion of non-target species contributing to the catch varying between estuaries.

The primary markets for prawns harvested from the estuaries are Sydney and regional centres where prawns are sold either for domestic consumption or processed and packaged for bait.

With the exception of the Hawkesbury River, the fishery operates for defined seasons (generally October to May) and within each estuary is confined to specific times and areas. The majority of prawn catches are landed during the 'dark' of the moon (between the last and first quarter), on either run out or 'slack' tides.

Managing the fishery

Fishery Management Strategy has been prepared for the Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery and approved by the Minister. The strategy includes a comprehensive description of the fishery and the management arrangements that apply. The strategy was approved only after the environmental impact of the fishery was assessed, and the community had an opportunity to review the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the fishery.

The Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery is a share management fishery. This means that commercial fishers must hold sufficient shares to be eligible for an endorsement to operate in the fishery. Each estuary in the fishery has it own specific share class and endorsement. The rules and regulations that apply to the fishery are outlined in the Fisheries Management (Estuary Prawn Trawl Share Management Plan) Regulation 2006 the Fisheries Management Act 1994 No 38 the Fisheries Management (General) Regulation 2010 and Fisheries Management (Supporting Plan) Regulation 2006.

The estuary prawn trawl fishery is managed predominantly by limiting the amount of effort commercial fishers put into their fishing activities. These input controls include restrictions on the numbers of fishers endorsed to operate in each estuary, a range of seasonal, time, and area fishing closures, restrictions on the number and size of vessels permitted and the size and dimensions of the fishing gear used.

In recent years fishers have reduced the volume of unwanted species in their nets by using bycatch reduction devices (BRDs). The use of bycatch reduction devices is now mandatory in all areas of the Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery,


The practice of trawling for prawns in NSW began in 1926 in Port Jackson. A single net connected to a pair of otter boards to spread the net was towed behind a small boat. At the completion of a shot (i.e. setting, towing and retrieval of the net) the net was pulled back onto the boat by hand.

Prawn trawling spread to four other estuaries (Clarence, Hunter and Hawkesbury Rivers and Botany Bay) in the 1940s following the improvement of transport, development of markets and the advent of motorised vessels. In 2002 and 2006  both Botany Bay and Port Jackson were closed respectively to all commercial fishing (including prawn trawling).

The introduction of mechanical winches onto prawn trawling boats allowed the boats to trawl in deeper waters. Further developments in technology brought the introduction of multiple trawling nets in the Clarence River, the use of polyethylene netting which reduced the shrinking of nets, the use of echo-sounders and bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) to reduce the catch of unwanted species.Whiting

In 1984 a freeze on the issue of new boat licences was introduced and in 1988 the number of vessels operating in the Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery was limited to 309 and vessels were in most cases restricted to one estuary.

In March 1997 the Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery, along with five other major commercial fisheries, was formally declared a restricted fishery and the operators in the fishery were issued with 'endorsements' to replace their previous authorisations. The Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery is now a category 1 share management fishery. A share management plan for the fishery has been prepared in accordance with the agreed goals, objectives and management responses outlined in the management strategy.


For further information on the Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery telephone 1300 726 488.

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