KING GEORGE WHITING
King George Whiting is one of the most valuable, coastal marine finfish species of southern Australia. It occurs in coastal and shelf waters, distributed from Sydney (NSW), around the southern coastline, and to Perth in Western Australia (WA). The species is particularly significant in South Australia (SA), the geographic centre of its distribution, where abundances and fishery productivity are highest. King George Whiting has a complex life history that involves movement between different habitats associated with ontogenetic development across different life history stages. In SA, spawning occurs during autumn and early winter at off-shore reefs, shoals and mounds in relatively deep water in exposed localities that experience medium/high wave energy. The eggs and larvae are advected throughout a prolonged pre-settlement duration to nursery areas in shallow, protected bays located in the northern gulfs or those on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula and also Kangaroo Island.
Juvenile fish grow and develop in the vicinity of these nursery areas. When they reach approximately three-years of age, those in the northern gulfs undertake significant movement southwards, whilst those in the other bays move off-shore. Such movement ultimately replenishes the populations of older fish on the spawning grounds. The movement results in a significant ontogenetic shift from relatively protected shallow waters that support extensive meadows of seagrass to more exposed, deep water and reef habitat. As a consequence, population size and age structures of King George Whiting vary geographically. The northern gulfs and inshore bays support populations with only a few age classes, whereas in the south the populations involve multiple age classes with fish up to around 20 years of age. The spawning grounds and nursery areas for King George Whiting can be separated by up to several hundred kilometres. As such, the processes of larval advection and adult movement are significant obligate steps that link the different life history stages and the habitats they occupy.
Typically found in broken bottom (sand and weed) regions, the bays and islands of the Far West Coast dominate production. The expansive waters of Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent also provide consistent supplies.
Gulf St. Vincent – Sustainable
Spencer Gulf – Sustainable
West Coast – Eyre Peninsula – Sustainable
Traditionally, January marks an influx of new season whiting with production peaking over Autumn and Winter months. June marks peak supply, with October to December the lowest. Production is consistent due to a high number of producing regions with some long-term fluctuations, causes unknown.