No commercial take of sand flathead in state waters

As part of the Scalefish Rules Review last year, rules for sand flathead changed for all fishers, including prohibiting the commercial take of sand flathead in state waters.

This means sand flathead is now a recreational-only species, placing the rebuild of Tasmania’s favourite recreational fish directly in the hands of recreational fishers. ​

  • The take of sand flathead for commercial purposes in state waters is no longer permitted. 
  • Take of other flathead species, including tiger flathead, is still permitted. Flathead for sale in Tasmania is most commonly tiger flathead.
  • The Commonwealth fishery, which operates more than 3 nautical miles (5.5km) offshore may occasionally catch sand flathead and bring their catch ashore in Tasmania. However, annual Commonwealth sand flathead catch averaged only 3 tonnes per year over the last 5 years - most of which came from waters off Victoria rather than Tasmania.
  • No trawlers are permitted to operate within 3 nautical miles of shore. However, you may see otter board trawlers and Danish seiners from the offshore Commonwealth fishery landing their catch at wharves in St Helens, Triabunna or Hobart.
Tiger flathead taken by Danish seining

Commercial take of sand flathead is not permitted in state waters. However, tiger flathead (pictured above) remain an important target species for commercial fishers and may commonly be seen being landed at wharves. Tiger flathead is a sustainable species.

State sand flathead fishery


Commercial take of sand flathead in state waters is prohibited, and any that are incidentally caught must be returned to the water.

Flathead you see landed or for sale in Tasmania are likely tiger flathead, a different flathead species which is sustainable, and a key target species of Tasmania’s small Danish seine fishery.

In the past, most sand flathead caught commercially have been by the handline fishery, which generally results in good survival rates on release. Generally, only small amounts of sand flathead catch has come from the two danish seine fishers operating in Tasmania, which primarily target tiger flathead and southern school whiting. 

In the past

The state commercial sand flathead fishery had a combined catch of just over 3 tonnes in 2021/22.

We know these numbers, because for decades commercial fishers have been required to provide detailed logbook reports of their catch.  

From these records, we know the total catch of the state commercial fishery over the past 15 years (93 tonnes) is only half of what recreational fishers are estimated to have caught in a single year (184 tonnes in 2018).

Did you know?
No trawlers are permitted to fish in state waters, which is anywhere within 3 nautical miles (or 5.5 km) of shore in Tasmania. This is enforced by mandatory vessel monitoring systems (VMS), which track where vessels are fishing.

Any trawlers you may see are part of the Commonwealth fishery operating outside state waters. Commonwealth vessels sometimes land their catch at wharves in St Helens, Triabunna and Hobart.

Commercial catch outside state waters

Commonwealth fishers are only allowed to operate outside three nautical miles from shore. 

They rarely catch sand flathead because they fish deep waters, and sand flathead are more typically found in shallower, inshore waters. In fact, in the last five years, the catch of sand flathead by the Commonwealth fishery only averaged 3 tonnes per year– and a lot of that catch came from mainland waters, not Tasmania.

The Commonwealth fishery is managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

Published on: 2/23/2024


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Contact us

Recreational Fishing

Level 3, 134 Macquarie St

Hobart TAS 7000

Phone: (03) 6165 3233, 1300 720 647


Commercial Fisheries

Level 3, 134 Macquarie St

GPO Box 44

Phone: (03) 6165 3000, 1300 368 550


Commercial Fisheries Licensing

Level 1, 134 Macquarie St

GPO Box 44

Phone: (03) 6165 3000, 1300 368 550