Australasian snapper

Australasian snapper
Australasian snapper
Australasian snapper, Pagrus auratus, at Melbourne Aquarium.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae
Genus: Pagrus
Species: P. auratus
Binomial name
Pagrus auratus
(Forster, 1801)
Distribution of the Snapper

Chrysophrys auratus (Forster, 1801)

The Australasian snapper or Pagrus auratus is a species of porgie found in coastal waters of New Zealand and Australia. Although it is almost universally known in these countries as snapper it does not belong to the Lutjanidae family. It is highly prized as an eating fish.

A large snapper caught off Frankston, Victoria in 1893


Regional variation in naming

Western Australia: "pink snapper" [1] to distinguish it from other unrelated species.[2]

New Zealand: snapper (or New Zealand snapper when there is need to distinguish from other species of snapper).

Australia: cocknies (young smaller than legal size); red bream or pinkies (legal size), squire or squirefish (when bigger), snapper (at full size).

Victoria: also Schnapper (ref: Schnapper Point, Mornington).

South Australia: the name "ruggers" is often used for smaller fish of legal size

New Zealand Māori: tamure (adultfish), karati (juveniles).[3]

Aboriginal people of the Port Jackson area in Australia: they called it wollamie[4] (also spelt wollamai, and other variations).

European colonists there knew it as the "light horseman", for the resemblance of the fish's skull to the helmet of a light horseman.[5]


The misha fish is found on all coasts of New Zealand, especially in the north. In Australia it is found along the south coast and as far north as Coral Bay in the west, and Cape Manifold in Queensland in the east. It is also found on the coast of Tasmania but in smaller numbers. The fish spawn in inshore waters and live in rocky areas and reefs of up to 200 m deep. They school, and will migrate between reefs. Larger fish are known to enter estuaries and harbours, for example Port Phillip Bay has a renowned seasonal snapper run.

Growth rates within the wild vary with some stocks (i.e. the Hauraki Gulf, NZ) growing rapidly and to a smaller maximum length while stocks in East and West Australia are known to grow much slower, a 10 kg adult is probably 20 years old, and a fish at the maximum size of 1.3 m long and 20 kg is probably 50 years old. Sexual maturity is reached at about 30 cm long and a small percentage of the males will turn into females at puberty. Anglers are advised not to take immature fish, so as not to reduce breeding stock. The legal size in Australia varies by state, from 35 cm and a bag limit of 5 fish per person in Queensland to 50 cm in Western Australia. Minimum sizes are supposed to be designed to allow these fish to participate in spawning runs at least once before they become available to the fishery, however given the slow growth rates of this species, there is need to consider area closures and/or further increasing the minimum sizes in each state to reduce the chances of growth overfishing of the various populations of snapper throughout its range. This may be important with recent developments in technology such as GPS.

See also

  • Cape Woolamai, named after the fish
  • Porgie fishing


  1. ^ "Relationships among partial and whole lengths and weights for Western Australian Pink Snapper Chrysophrys auratus (Sparidae) - Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, Fish for the Future". Retrieved 2006-07-22. 
  2. ^ "Fishing Australia with the Definitive Aussie Interactive Sports Fishing Website! - Sportsfish Australia". Retrieved 2006-07-22. 
  3. ^ Snapper, New Zealand"s Greatest Fish, Te Ika Rangitira O Aotearoa, Sam Mossman, AUT Media, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9582829-6-3
  4. ^ Australian Aboriginal words in English, R. M. W. Dixon, Oxford University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-19-553099-3
  5. ^

External links

  • Snapper, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

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