University of Tasmania

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Factors influencing the characteristics of the fish faunas in offshore, deeper waters of permanently-open, seasonally-open and normally-closed estuaries

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 07:05 authored by Chuwen, BM, Hoeksema, SD, Potter, IC
This study explored the ways in which various factors influence the species compositions, species richness and catch rates of fishes in offshore, deeper waters of the basin and river regions of five estuaries, which are located along ca 400 km of the southern coastline of Western Australia and differ markedly in their physico-chemical characteristics. Gill netting seasonally for two years at sites in the basin and saline lower reaches of the main tributary of the seasonally-open Broke, Irwin and Wilson inlets, the permanently-open Oyster Harbour and the normally-closed Wellstead Estuary yielded 22,329 fishes representing 58 species. Overall, and irrespective of estuary type, the species compositions of the basins and rivers differed markedly. This was attributable to consistently greater abundances of Mugil cephalus, and usually also of Acanthopagrus butcheri, in the rivers of each estuary and to the restriction of a range of species largely to the basins. However, the compositions in the basins of the five estuaries varied markedly, reflecting differences in the extent and duration of the opening of the estuary mouth and/or whether extensive growths of macrophytes were present. Changes in the ichthyofaunal composition of the normally-closed Wellstead Estuary between the first and second years of the study were attributable, in particular, to the movement of two mugilid species into offshore waters as they increased in size. Cyclical changes in ichthyofaunal composition were conspicuous in both regions of the estuary that underwent the most pronounced seasonal variations in environmental conditions. In each estuary, species richness was greater in the basin than river, where salinities were more variable and fell to lower levels and were thus less conducive to the immigration of most marine species. Catch rates were least in Broke Inlet, which had the lowest primary productivity, and were particularly high in Wellstead Estuary, which is highly eutrophic. The results of this study emphasise that ichthyofaunal composition can vary greatly with region (basin vs river) in microtidal estuaries, a finding that is of direct relevance to managers as these systems are becoming increasingly degraded and yet still constitute important nursery areas for certain fish species and often support recreational and commercial fisheries.


Publication title

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Academic Press Ltd Elsevier Science Ltd

Place of publication

24-28 Oval Rd, London, England, Nw1 7Dx

Rights statement

Copyright © 2008 Elsevier Ltd The definitive version is available at

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Fisheries - recreational freshwater