Southern sand flathead

Southern sand flatheadDistribution

Southern sand flathead (Platycephalus bassensis) is endemic to Australia and is found in bays, inlets, estuaries and shallow coastal waters to a depth of about 100 metres. The distribution of southern sand flathead extends from the central New South Wales coast, through Victoria and around Tasmania to Bremer Bay in Western Australia.

Stock structure

While sand flathead in Victoria are considered part of one broad, poorly defined southern stock, local subpopulations occur in large bays such as Port Phillip Bay. These subpopulations are differentiated by different biological characteristics such as growth rates and recruitment.

The national Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks report 2014 assessed the status of sand flathead at the Victorian state scale.  

Annual catch


Estimated Victorian catch

Commercial (2015/16 fishing year)

5 tonnes

Recreational (data from 2006/7)

 ≈ 115 tonnes

Indigenous (i.e. 2015/16 customary fishing permits

0 tonnes

Estimated total

≈ 120 tonnes

Stock status

The table below summarises and explains the status and management of sand flathead based on: 

  1. Stock status: classification of the biological status of sand flathead in Victoria as at 2013, taken from the national Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks (SAFS) report 2014.
    Read more here about the SAFS assessment approach and classification system.
  2. Management settings: overview of current management arrangements in Victorian waters, including any recent changes that may affect stock status.
  3. Risk management category: The Victorian Fisheries Authority's overall, qualitative assessment of current risk to stock status in Victorian waters taking into account management arrangements, based on the best information currently available:

    Red Red - current management measures may not be sufficient to prevent stock depletion
    Amber Amber - current management measures expected to mitigate risk of stock depletion
    Green Green - stock status not of concern under current management

The stock status classification, management settings and risk management category for sand flathead are all at the scale of Victorian waters. Stock status is based only on sustainability. Management settings and risk management category also consider the steps taken to address stock status. 

Management settings are also influenced by social and economic factors, and can take some time to affect a stock's status. This can depend on biological and environmental factors as well as the type and level of management changes implemented. 

Stock status (2013 data)

Key management settings

Risk management category



Commercial harvest is predominantly managed by limited entry licensing, restrictions on size and gear and limited restrictions on fishing times and locations. Sand flathead is generally no longer  targeted by commercial fishers but is taken as by-catch. Recreational fishers are subject to size, gear and bag limits

Sand flathead was historically a significant fishery (particularly Port Phillip Bay) but there was a major decline in stock size over 2000-2010. There is evidence that persistent low-level recruitment in Port Phillip Bay is linked to changing environmental conditions.

Contact The Victorian Fisheries Authority for a copy of the latest Victorian sand flathead stock assessment report.

Read more about the fishing methods and rules for sand flathead in Victoria.



Collectively, the following data provide evidence that this stock is undefined: 

  • fishery dependent data: commercial and recreational catch per unit of effort
  • fishery independent data: biomass estimates from trawls, research study

Overall the sand flathead population in Port Phillip Bay is below average. The decline in abundance has moderated and efforts will now be made to replicate environmental factors that appear to have historically triggered recruitment, and investigate feasibility of stocking sand flathead to rebuild populations. Ongoing monitoring is required

Basis for stock status classification (from SAFS 2014)

Biomass assessment

Based on this evidence, SAFS 2014 concluded that the biomass of this stock had been deteriorating but was not likely to be recruitment overfished.

Fishing pressure assessment

Based on this evidence, SAFS 2014 concluded that there was insufficient information to confidently assess whether the level of fishing pressure was likely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.

Read more about the assessment of sand flathead stock status as at 2013 in the national Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks (SAFS) report 2014.