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Assessing the sediment preference of a Penaeid Prawn to inform release strategies

Bennett, A., Tweedley, J.R., Poh, B. and Loneragan, N. (2015) Assessing the sediment preference of a Penaeid Prawn to inform release strategies. In: ASFB Conference, 11 - 14 October, Sydney, Australia.


The abundance of the Western School Prawn (Metapenaeus dalli) declined markedly in the Swan-Canning Estuary after the 1960s, resulting in the initiation of a restocking program in 2012. Further to the decline in abundance, anecdotal evidence from recreational fishers indicated that there had been a spatial shift in the distribution of this prawn. To test the hypothesis that a change in sediment composition may be responsible, the density of M. dalli, recorded monthly between October 2013 and August 2014, was correlated against sediment organic matter content and grain size distribution. Densities of M. dalli were found to differ among sediment types in summer, but not winter. Controlled laboratory experiments were used to investigate whether M. dalli exhibited a preference for sediments from either the upper or lower reaches of their distribution within the estuary. Prawns exhibited a preference for nearshore and offshore sediments that contained a lower percentage contribution of larger grain sizes and/or a higher percentage contribution of finer grain sizes, i.e. sediments from the lower rather than upper reaches. These experiments also revealed that emergence and activity rates of M. dalli are strongly related to photoperiod, with individuals preferring to remain buried during daylight hours and become active during darkness. Visual observations also indicated that the prawns were able to bury more rapidly in finer than coarse sediments, thus reducing their length of exposure to predators. The implications of these findings on the current restocking program for M. dalli in the Swan-Canning Estuary are discussed.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: Fish Health Unit
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
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