Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro 1949)

Other Names: Blue Nose Bream, Blue-nose Bream, Blue-nosed Bream, Gippsland Bream, Golden Bream, Perth Bream, Silver Bream, Southern Black Bream, Southern Bream, Yellow-fin Bream

A Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri, at Kingston, Hobart, Tasmania, October 2016. Source: lachlanf / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


A silvery olive to golden brown bream with greenish reflections when fresh and a whitish underside. The fins are dusky, with the caudal fin often a dusky olive brown, although juveniles may have yellowish fins. Mature fish over 1 kg in weight often develop a bluish tinge on the snout.

Black Bream may be difficult to separate from Yellowfin Bream, Acanthopagrus australis, with which they hybridise. Yellowfin Bream usually have yellowish pelvic and anal fins, rather than the brownish to dusky fins of Black Bream.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Gomon, M.F. 2024, Acanthopagrus butcheri in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro 1949)

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Endemic to southern Australia, almost exclusively in estuaries from about Ulladulla, New South Wales, to the Murchison River, Kalbarri, Western Australia, including throughout coastal rivers of Tasmania, and Flinders Island (Tas) and Kangaroo Island (SA).

Although Black Bream occasionally occur in coastal marine waters (in the South Australian gulfs and following flooding in the west), the entire life cycle is completed within estuaries and coastal lakes. The species also occurs in land-locked saline habitats in south-western Australia.

Adults usually prefer deep pools with woody debris and overhanging banks, whereas juveniles inhabit shallower areas, and often shelter amongst seagrass.

Black Bream are highly mobile and move freely within an estuary depending on the water conditions. While they can tolerate very high salinities, they usually migrate upstream during drier times, and move downstream when rains bring freshwater into the estuaries.


Dorsal fin X-XII, 10-13; Anal fin III, 8-10; Caudal fin 17; Pectoral fin 14-16; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line 44-56.

Body depth 22–53% SL; dorsal profile of head slightly convex; mouth reaching to below anterior portion of eyes; 4½–5½ scales between 4th dorsal‑fin spine and lateral line. 


Golden brown to bronze above, white below, head bluish anteriorly; dorsal-fin spines brown, membranes greyish, margin blackish; anal and pelvic fins whitish; caudal fin brownish with black margin; pectoral fins brownish with black spot at upper end of base.


Feeds on a wide range of prey including polychaete worms, molluscs, small crustaceans, insect larvae and small fishes; also consume macrophytic algae.

Black Bream use their peg-like teeth to prize sessile invertebrates such as mussels, barnacles, and polychaete worms from rocks, pylons and piers.


Black bream are well adapted to an estuarine life where salinities range from freshwater to extremely salty (hypersaline).

Black Bream are hermaphrodites. Juveniles have both immature ovaries and testes. They mature into either males or females after two to three years, usually between 15-20 cm.

Spawning occurs during Spring and Summer, usually at the boundary between fresh and brackish water - at the ‘saltwater wedge’ where the less dense freshwater from rivers and streams is found over the more dense saltier water from the ocean. Females spawn a number of times during the breeding season.

The larvae hatch from pelagic eggs after 2-3 days. They remain in the plankton for about four weeks, and settle out in the upper reaches of estuaries at about 10 mm in length. 


A very popular and important recreational and commercial target species due to its high quality flesh.

Similar Species

It is often very difficult to separate this species from Acanthopagrus australis, and the two species are known to hybridize in Victoria.


Munro named the species in honour of Alfred D. Butcher  '... who has made an extensive study of its economic biology in the Gippsland Lakes.' Butcher was pioneer in fisheries research in Victoria, working in the Fisheries and Game Branch where he became Inspector of Fisheries in 1947, then Director of Fisheries and Game in 1949.

Species Citation

Mylio butcheri Munro, 1949, Mem. Qld Mus. 12(4): 191, pl. 17, 22(2), 23(2). Type locality: Gippsland Lakes, Victoria.


Bray, D.J. & Gomon, M.F. 2024


Atlas of Living Australia

Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro 1949)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37353003

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-30 m

Fishing:Important recreational & commercial fish


Max Size:60 cm TL, 4 kg


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CAAB distribution map