Species Focus - Red Gurnard (Chelidonichthys kumu)
Red gurnard are found on or near the seabed throughout parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
They are found around the entire New Zealand coast (except southern fiords). They are most abundant north of the Chatham Rise in shallow waters, less than 55 metres, over a sandy or muddy seabed.
Red gurnard live to about 16 years and reach sexual maturity at two-three years of age when they are around 23 cm (from the nose to the fork in the tail). At that time their growth rate slows and they gradually reach a maximum length of around 42 cm.
Females grow faster and larger than males, but growth also varies by location. Red gurnard off the east coast of the South Island grow faster than those in other areas.
Red gurnard use their pectoral fins for ‘walking’, as feelers, and to scare their prey into the open where they are eaten. Red gurnard eat crabs and shrimps, small fish and worms.
Studies have shown that red gurnard are one of the most common species caught in inshore areas, occurring in over 80 percent of all inshore trawl-tows.
Red gurnard spawn through spring and summer, peaking in early summer. Their spawning grounds are thought to be widespread. The egg and larval development occurs in surface waters.
There are some small target fisheries in Pegasus Bay, off the Mahia Peninsula and the west coast of the South Island, however red gurnard are predominantly caught as a by-catch of the red cod, flatfish and snapper trawl fisheries.
Current total allowable catches are based upon a period of highest ever catch levels. These catch levels have not been met since gurnard was introduced into the QMS in 1986-87. This is probably due to the moderate price fishers get for this species, rather than declining numbers. The gurnard stock as a whole appears to be relatively healthy.
For the north of the North Island, figures show that current catch levels are sustainable and will allow the stock to remain above the target level.
Figures show that the eastern and southern South Island stock is at its highest level for 20 years. Although recent catches on the west coast of the South Island are likely to be sustainable, at least in the short term, more research is required to confirm this.
Current management issues
There do not appear to be any management concerns at present, but continual monitoring is required to ensure that this continues to be the case.
| Gurnard distribution and management areas.|