South East Australia


The south-east Australia hotspot is an area of over 301,900 km2 and is situated along the densely populated eastern seaboard of Australia, off the coast of the states of New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and Tasmania. It extends from the shoreline to a distance of approx 6000m offshore and takes in 4.3% of the Australian EEZ. The area is contains one of Australia’s busiest shipping lanes and location of six Commonwealth Fisheries. The hotspot area is also used extensively for recreation and contains numerous National Parks and Marine Reserves.

Oceanographical context

The south-east Australian hotspot is strongly influenced by the East Australian Current (EAC). The EAC flows south along the edge of the continental shelf, carrying tropical water south before retroflecting towards New Zealand and forming the Tasman Front. South of the EAC are the cool waters of the sub-Antarctic zone which move up the east coast when the EAC retracts north in winter. Flow is strongest in summer, often seen as a tongue of warm water extending south into waters off eastern Tasmania. Inter-annual variability also can also result in warmer than average conditions, and already impacts the region in some years. 

Economic and social context

In terms of industry value added the south east marine region’s largest two marine based industries are marine based tourism and offshore oil and gas. These two industries together account for around four-fifths of the region’s industry value added, while the remaining fifth is accounted for mainly by aquaculture and commercial fishing, ports, ship building, and shipping activities (ABARE).

In terms of the gross value of fisheries production, aquaculture contributes around a quarter of this, state wild catch fisheries 60 per cent, and Commonwealth fisheries 15 per cent (ABARE). In south-east Australia the commercial fishing sector is contracting and the associated fishing communities are re-orienting to other marine and non-marine sectors.

Important fisheries

Major commercial fisheries include blacklip abalone, southern rock lobster, Australian salmon, snapper and southern calamari which are harvested in all south-eastern jurisdictions except the Commonwealth. Some species groups, such as the small pelagic fishes and flatheads are harvested in all five jurisdictions (states plus the Commonwealth).

Commonwealth Fisheries in area include the Eastern Tuna and Bill Fish Fishery, Eastern Skipjack Tuna Fishery, Commonwealth Trawl Sector, Small Pelagic Fishery, Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, and the Southern Squid Jig Fishery.

Recreational fisheries are important in the south-east and include whiting (fam. Sillaginidae, e.g. King George whiting Sillaginodes punctata), flathead (fam. Platycephalidae), Australian salmon (Arripis spp.), bream (fam. Sparidae), mullet (fam. Mugilidae), garfish (fam. Hemiramphidae), tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix), and pink snapper (Pagrus auratus). 

There is very little indigenous fishing in the south-east Australia region.

Biodiversity of the region

The ecology and biology of the species found in the south-east hotspot region are diverse, with molluscs, crustaceans, teleosts, and elasmobranches represented and a high number of endemic species. A wide range of habitats are utilised by key species including benthic, demersal and pelagic environs, as well as estuarine, neritic, and oceanic waters and rocky reef, soft sediment and vegetated substrates. Juvenile stages commonly occupy a different habitat to the adult stages, typically inhabiting shallow coastal waters and estuaries. The majority of commercial species are distributed from NSW to southern Western Australia; however, some have large-ranging cosmopolitan distributions (e.g. large pelagic fishes) and others have more restricted distributions (e.g. eastern king prawn, school prawn, and dusky flathead). All species are broadcast spawners with a pelagic larval phase, except for gummy sharks and southern calamari; however, the duration of the larval stage varies extensively between species (e.g. <2 weeks in abalone and 1–2 years in southern rock lobster). Species occupy a range of trophic levels, from detritivores and herbivores to apex predators.

Key Concerns

  • As the warm East Australia Current (EAC) extends south, the distribution of a number of warmer water species of seaweed, plankton, molluscs, demersal and pelagic fishes are also extending south. 
  • Recruitment and catch of southern rock lobster, one of the regions’ major fisheries, appears to be negatively impacted by regional warming.  
  • There is a major decline in algal habitat in inshore waters of Tasmania due to the southward expansion of the lomgspine sea urchin aided by the EAC
  • Reduced calcification rates of mollusks and deepwater corals have been recorded
  • Temperate species of macroalgae are at risk of extinction
Project links
Range Extension Database and Mapping project, Redmap Australia
An adaptation blueprint for coastal communities
Scientific articles
In Press
Bates A, Bird T, Stuart-Smith R, Wernberg T, Sunday J, Barrett N, Dulvy N, Edgar G, Frusher S, Hobday A, Pecl G, Smale D, Mccarthy M.
Distinguishing geographic range shifts from artefacts of detectability and sampling effort.
Diversity and Distributions. In press 
Hobday, A. J., R. H. Bustamante, A. Farmery, A. Fleming, S. Frusher, B. S. Green, L. Lim-Camacho, J. Innes, S. Jennings, A. Norman-Lopez, S. Pascoe, G. T. Pecl, E. E. Plaganyi, P. Schrobback, O. Thebaud, L. Thomas and E. I. van Putten.
Growth opportunities for marine fisheries and aquaculture industries in a changing climate.
Applied climate change adaptation research. J. Palutikof, J. Barnett, S. L. Boulter and D. Rissik, Wiley. In press 
Pecl GT, Ward T, Doubleday Z, Clarke S, Day J, Dixon C, Frusher S, Gibbs P, Hobday A, Hutchinson N, Jennings S, Jones K, Li X, Spooner D, and Stoklosa R (accepted pending minor change).
Rapid assessment of fisheries species sensitivity to climate change in south east Australia.
Climatic Change. In press 
Bates AE, Pecl GT, Frusher S, Hobday AJ, Wernberg T, Smale DA, Dulvy N, Edgar GJ, Feng M, Fulton EA, Hill N, Holbrook NJ, Radford B, Slawinski D, Sunday JM, Thompson PA, Watson R (2014).
Evaluating pathways of geographic range extensions and contractions.
Global Environmental Change 26 : 27–38 
Dutra, L.X.C.; Ellis, N.; Boschetti, F.; Dichmont, C.M.; Perez, P. and de la Mare, W. (2014)
Barriers to adaptive water quality management: a retrospective evaluation of decisions in South East Queensland, Australia.
AMBIO, online first:
Fleming A, Hobday AJ, Farmery A. van Putten I, Pecl GT, Green B, Lim-Camacho L (2014)
Climate change risks and adaptation options across Australian seafood supply chains - a preliminary assessment.
Climate Risk Management. 1 (2014) 39–50.
Frusher, Stewart D., Alistair J. Hobday, Sarah M. Jennings, Colin Creighton, Dallas D’Silva, Marcus Haward, Neil J. Holbrook, Melissa Nursey-Bray, Gretta T. Pecl, Ingrid van Putten (2014)
The short history of research in a marine climate change hotspot – from anecdote to adaptation in south-east Australia. 
Reviews in Fish Biology and FisheriesDOI: 10.1007/s11160-013-9325-7.
Frusher S, Hobday AJ, Jennings SM, Pecl GT, Haward M, Nursey-Bray M, Holbrook N, van Putten I, Creighton C, D’Silva D (2014).
History of adaptation research in a marine climate change hotspot – from anecdote to action in south-east Australia.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries DOI 10.1007/s11160-013-9325-7, 
Hobday A and Pecl GT (2014)
Identification of global marine hotspots: sentinels for change and vanguards for adaptation.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 24:415–425, DOI 10.1007/s11160-013-9326-6, 
Leith, P., K O’Toole, M. Haward, B. Coffey, C. Rees, E . Ogier (2014)
Analysis of Operating environments; A diagnostic model linking science, society and policy for sustainability.
Environmental Science & Policy
Leith, Peat, Emily Ogier, Marcus Haward (2014)
Science and social license: defining environmental sustainability of Atlantic Salmon aquaculture in south-eastern Tasmania, Australia
Submitted to Social Epistemology, 28: 3-4 : 277-296DOI: 10.1080/02691728.2014.922641
Leith, Peat, Emily Ogier, Gretta Pecl, Eriko Hoshino, Julie Davidson, Marcus Haward (2014).
Towards a diagnostic approach to climate adaptation for fisheries. Climatic Change. 122:55-66.Published online 31 October 2013 
Lim-Camacho L, Hobday AJ, Bustamante RH, Farmery A, Fleming A, Frusher S, Green BS, Norman-Lopez A, Pecl GT, Plaganyi EE, Schrobback P, Thebaud O, Thomas L, van Putten I (2014) Facing the wave of change: Stakeholder perspectives on climate adaptation for Australian seafood supply chains.
Regional Environmental Change.
Norman-Lopez, A., S. Pascoe, O. Thebaud, E. I. van Putten, J. Innes, S. Jennings, A. J. Hobday, B. Green and E. Plaganyi (2014).
Price integration in the Australian rock lobster industry: implications for management and climate change adaptation.
Australian Journal of Agriculture and Resource Economics 58(1)
Pecl GT, Hobday AJ, Frusher SF, Sauer WHH, Bates AE (2014)
Ocean warming hotspots provide early warning laboratories for climate change impacts.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries. 24: 409-413
Plaganyi EE, van Putten I, Thebaud O, Hobday AJ, Innes J, Lim-Camacho L, Norman-Lopez A, Bustamante RH, Farmery A, Fleming A, Frusher S, Green B, Hoshino E, Jennings S, Pecl GT, Pascoe S, Schrobback P, Thomas L (2014)
A Quantitative Metric to Identify Critical Elements within Seafood Supply Networks.
PLoS ONE 9(3): e91833
Plagányi É, Punt A, Hillary R, Morello E, Thebaud O, Hutton T, Pillans R, Thorson J, Fulton EA, Smith ADT, Smith F, Bayliss P, Haywood M, Lyne V, Rothlisberg P (2014) Multispecies fisheries management and conservation: tactical applications using models of intermediate complexity. Fish Fisheries 15:1-22
Ramos J, Pecl GT, Moltschaniwskyj NA, Strugnell JM, León RI, Semmens JM (2014)
Body size, growth and life span of the range extending Octopus tetricus: implications for establishment in south-eastern Australia.
PLoS One. 9(8): e103480
Doubleday Z, Clarke S, Li X, Pecl G, Ward T, Battaglene S, Frusher S, Gibbs P, Hobday A, Hutchinson N, Jennings S, Spooner D, Stocklosa R (2013)
Assessing the risk of climate change to aquaculture: a case study from south-eastern Australia.
Aquaculture Environment Interactions 3: 163-175. Print ISSN: 1869-215X; Online ISSN: 1869-7534.
Norman-Lopez A, Plagányi ÉE, Skewes T, Poloczanska E, Dennis D, Gibbs M and Bayliss P (2013)
Linking physiological, population and socio-economic assessments of climate change impacts on fisheries.
Fisheries Research 148:18-26
Nursey Bray, Melissa, Kevin O’Toole, Marcus Haward M. Joanna Vince, Tim Smith Michael Scott, Beverley Clarke, Nick Harvey (2013) Science into policy? Discourse, coastal management and knowledgeEnvironmental Science & Policy DOI
Plagányi, É.E., van Putten, I., Hutton, T., Deng, R., Dennis, D., Hutton, T., Pascoe, S., Skewes, T. and R. Campbell (2013)
Integrating indigenous livelihood and lifestyle objectives in managing a natural resource.
P Natl Acad Sci USA 110( 9): 3639-44
van Putten IE, Jennings S, Frusher S, Gardner C, Haward M, Hobday AJ, Nursey-Bray M, Pecl G, Punt A, Revill H (2013)
Building blocks of economic resilience to climate change: A fisheries example.
Regional Environmental Change 13:1313–1323
Boschetti, F.; Richert, C.; Walker, I; Price, J. and Dutra, L.X.C. (2012)
Assessing attitudes and cognitive styles of stakeholders in environmental projects involving computer modelling.
Ecological Modelling 247, pp. 98-111 
Griffith GP, Fulton EA, Gorton R and Richardson A (2012)
Predicting multiple human effects on the marine ecosystem.
Conservation Biology, 26: 1145-1152 
Madin EMP, Ban NC, Doubleday ZA, Holmes TH, Pecl GT, Smith F (2012)
Socio-economic and management implications of range-shifting species in marine systems.
Global Environmental Change 22 (2012) 137–146 
Myers S, Thomsen DC, Tarte D, Dutra LXC, Ellis N, Thébaud O, Nursey-Bray M and Smith TF (2012) Adaptive Learning and Coastal Management in South East Queensland, Australia. In: R. Kenchington, L. Sotcker and D. Wood (eds).
Sustainable Coastal Management and Climate Adaptation: Global Lessons from Regional Approaches.
CSIRO Publishing, Canberra, pp. 157-176 (ISBN: 978-1-4665-7186-0).  
Nursey-Bray, M, Pecl G, Frusher, S, Gardner, C, Haward, M, Hobday, A, Jennings, S, Punt, A, Revill, H, van Putten, I (2012)
Communicating climate change: climate change risk perceptions and rock lobster fishers, Tasmania,
Marine Policy
 36 (2012) 753–759 
van Putten, I., Lalancette, A., Bayliss, P., Dennis, D., Hutton, T., Norman- López, A., Pascoe, S., Plagányi, É. and T. Skewes. (2012)
A Bayesian model of factors influencing indigenous participation in the Torres Strait tropical rocklobster fishery.
Marine Policy 37: 96-105 
Dutra LXC, Ellis N, Boschetti F, Dichmont C, de la Mare W, Perez P (2011)
Client Report: Healthy Waterways Management Strategy Evaluation: Learning and decision making within an adaptive framework – Final Report.
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Cleveland, 76 p.  
Dutra LXC, Haworth RJ and Taboada MB (2011) An integrated approach to tourism planning in a developing nation: a case study from Beloi (Timor-Leste). In D. Dredge. and J. Jenkins (eds.)
Stories of Practice: Tourism Planning and Policy.
Ashgate, Abingdon, pp 269-294. (ISBN: 978-0-7546-7982-0).  
Fulton EA (2011)
Interesting times: winners and losers and system shifts under climate change around Australia.
ICES Journal Marine Science 68: 1329-1342 
Johnson CR, Banks SC, Barrett NS, Cazzasus F, Dunstan PK, Edgar GJ, Frusher SD, Gardner C, Helidoniotis F, Hill KL, Holbrook NJ, Hosie GW, Last PR, Ling SD, Melbourne-Thomas J, Miller K, Pecl GT, Richardson AJ, Ridgway KR, Rintoul SR, Ritz DA, Ross J, Sanderson C, Shepherd S, Slotwinski A, Swadling KM, Tawd N (2011)
Climate change cascades: shifts in oceanography, species’ ranges and marine community dynamics in eastern Tasmania.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 400 (2011) 17–32. 
Last P, White W, Gledhill D, Hobday A, Brown R, Edgar G, Pecl G (2011)
Long-term shifts in abundance and distribution of a temperate fish fauna: a response to climate change and fishing practices.
Global Ecology and Biogeography 20(1): 58-72 
Plagányi E, Bell J, Bustamante R, Dambacher JM, Dennis D, Dichmont C, Dutra LXC, Fulton E, Hobday A, van Putten I, Smith, F, Smith T, Zhou S (2011)
Modelling climate-change effects on Australian and Pacific aquatic systems: a review of analytical tools and management implications.
Marine and Freshwater Research 62(9), pp. 1132-1147. 
Plagányi ÉE, Weeks S, Skewes T, Gibbs M, Poloczanska E, Norman-Lopez A, Blamey L, Soares M and Robinson W (2011)
Assessing the adequacy of current fisheries management under changing climate: a southern synopsis.
ICES Journal of Marine Science 68: 1305-1317. 
André J, Haddon M, Pecl GT (2010)
Modelling climate-change-induced nonlinear thresholds in cephalopod population dynamics.
Global Change 16(10): 2866-2875. 
Brown CJ, Fulton EA, Hobday AJ, Matear R, Possingham HP, Bulman C, Christensen V, Forrest RE, Gehrke PC, Gribble NA, Griffiths SP, Lozano-Montes H, Martin JM, Metcalf S, Okey TA, Watson R and Richardson AJ (2010)
Effects of climate-driven primary production change on marine food webs: implications for fisheries and conservation.
Global Change Biology, 16: 1194-1212.
Dutra LXC, de la Mare W, Perez P, Ellis N, Tickell S, Cannard T, Thebaud O, Pascual P, Bayliss P, Moeseneder C, Dichmont C, Boschetti F, Pascoe S (2010)
Client Report: Healthy Waterways Management Strategy Evaluation: Scoping Study for the Development of a 'catchment-to-coast' MSE in SE Queensland - Phase 2 – Final Report.
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Cleveland, 131 p. 
Pecl GT and Jackson GD (2008)
The potential impacts of climate change on inshore squid: biology, ecology and fisheries.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 18: 373-385.
Fulton EA and Gorton R (2014)
Adaptive Futures for SE Australian Fisheries & Aquaculture: Climate Adaptation Simulations.
CSIRO, Australia.
Jennings S, Pascoe S, Norman-Lopez A, Le Bouhellec B, Hall-Aspland S, Sullivan A and Pecl G (2012)
Identifying management objectives hierarchies and weightings for four key fisheries in South Eastern Australia.
Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Project 2009/073 
Pecl GT, Ward T, Doubleday Z, Clarke S, Day J, Dixon C, Frusher S, Gibbs P, Hobday A, Hutchinson N, Jennings S, Jones K, Li X, Spooner D, and Stoklosa R (2011)
Risk Assessment of Impacts of Climate Change for Key Marine Species in South Eastern Australia. Part 1: Fisheries and Aquaculture Risk Assessment.
Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Project 2009/070.
Pecl G, Frusher S, Gardner C, Haward M, Hobday A, Jennings S, Nursey-Bray M, Punt A, Revill H, van Putten I (2009)
The east coast Tasmanian rock lobster fishery – vulnerability to climate change impacts and adaptation response options.
Report to Dept of Climate Change, Australia. 
Other links relevant to this hotspot
Victorian climate change adaptation plan
South East Australian Program
Climate Adaptation Framework
Tasmanian climate modeling technical report
Climate change in Australia
The South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative
The National Climate Change Action Plan for Fisheries and Aquaculture
NSW Projected impacts of climate changes on fishing and aquaculture
2012 Marine Climate Change Report Card

Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies



University of Tasmania