Project level: PhD

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) within the Queensland Government monitors commercial and recreational fisheries throughout the state. The objectives of this fishery-dependent monitoring include collecting the data required to assess the status of key fish stocks and the effectiveness of current management arrangements (especially fisheries with catch / effort quotas), as well as helping develop new, effective management arrangements.

Turning data into advice about the status of Queensland’s fish stocks or the sustainability of Queensland’s fisheries is the challenge and occurs in a number of different ways. The most regular assessments now occur annually for key species, as outlined in the Framework for Defining Stock Status (PDF, 159kB) and the national framework.

The main activity in defining stock status each year is a workshop, which involves assessing all the available fish length and age data. Formal stock assessments are carried out less frequently, using mathematical modelling to reconstruct the history of species-specific fisheries from all available data.

New statistical methodologies are required to: 1) evaluate to the effective sampling of fish length and age data, and 2) quantify rates of fish mortality and reference points.


Review and evaluate efficient sampling programs:

  • Is the right amount of sampling occurring for each species?
  • Are there any significant biases in the sampling programs for each species?

Assess whether routine analyses are being carried out correctly and to develop new analyses for fisheries management.

Project components include:

  • develop quantitative analyses to optimise fishery-dependent sampling across multiple species and regions
    • includes developing routine methods for assessing precision of current sampling of fish length and age
  • develop new methods for turning fish length and age data into advice (indicators) about fishing pressure and the status of fish stocks
  • develop a corresponding harvest strategy and reference points for judging the performance of the indicators.


This is a joint project with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) within the Queensland Government. A PhD funding top up of $7K per year will offered.  


Johnathan Stauton-Smith (DAF), Michael O’Neill (DAF), George Leigh (DAF) and Alex Campbell (DAF)


Sloan, S., Smith, T., Gardner, C., Crosthwaite, K., Triantafillos, L., Jeffriess, B., and Kimber, N. 2014. National guidelines to develop fishery harvest strategies (PDF, 3.19MB) (last accessed 27th October 2015). FRDC report - project 2010/061. Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia, Adelaide, March. CC BY 3.0 .

Aanes, S., and Volstad, J. H. 2015. Efficient statistical estimators and sampling strategies for estimating the age composition of fish. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 72: 938-953.

Zhou, S., Pascoe, S., Dowling, N., Haddon, M., Klaer, N., Larcombe, J., Smith, A. D. M., et al. 2013. Quantitatively defining biological and economic reference points in data poor fisheries. Final report on FRDC project 2010/044. Canberra, Australia. 306 pp.

Smith, M. W., Then, A. Y., Wor, C., Ralph, G., Pollock, K. H., and Hoenig, J. M. 2012. Recommendations for catch-curve analysis. North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 32: 956-967.

Millar, R. B. 2015. A better estimator of mortality rate from age-frequency data. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences: 1-12.

Francis, R., and Campana, S. E. 2004. Inferring age from otolith measurements: a review and a new approach. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 61: 1269-1284.

Mapstone, B. D., Little, L. R., Punt, A. E., Davies, C. R., Smith, A. D. M., Pantus, F., McDonald, A. D., et al. 2008. Management strategy evaluation for line fishing in the Great Barrier Reef: Balancing conservation and multi-sector fishery objectives. Fisheries Research, 94: 315-329.