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


This popular commercial and angling fish is completely dependent on estuaries. Black Bream are usually silvery olive to golden brown on the back and sides, with greenish reflections when fresh, white below. 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. 2021, Acanthopagrus butcheri in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 Sep 2022,

Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro 1949)

More Info


Endemic to southern Australia, in rivers rivers and estuaries from Ulladulla, New South Wales, to Shark Bay, Western Australia, and thourhgout coastal rivers of Tasmania, and Flinders and Kangaroo Islands.

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 bony 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. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro 1949)


Allan, R. 2002. Australian Fish and How to Catch Them. Sydney : New Holland Publishers (Australia) 394 pp.

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp.

Burridge, C.P., Hurt, A.C., Farrington, L.W., Coutin, P.C. & Austin, C.M. 2004. Stepping stone gene flow in an estuarine-dwelling sparid from south-east Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 64: 805-819.

Burridge, C.P. & Versace, V.L. 2007. Population genetic structuring in Acanthopagrus butcheri (Pisces: Sparidae): does low gene flow among estuaries apply to both sexes? Marine Biotechnology 9: 33-44.

Butcher, A.D. & Ling, J.K. 1962. Bream tagging Experiments in east Gippsland during April and May 1944. Victorian Naturalist 78(1): 257-264.

Cadwallader, P.L. & Backhouse, G.N. 1983. A Guide to the Freshwater Fish of Victoria. Melbourne : F.D. Atkinson Government Printer 249 pp. figs.

Chaplin, J.A., Baudains, G.A., Gill, H.S., McCulloch, R. & Potter, I.C. 1998. Are assemblages of black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri) in different estuaries genetically distinct? International Journal of Salt Lake Research 6: 303-321.

Chuwen, B.M. 2009. Characteristics of the ichthyofaunas of offshore waters in different types of estuary in Western Australia, including the biology of Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri. Ph.D thesis, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia.

Chuwen, B.M., Platell, M.E. & Potter, I.C. 2007. Dietary compositions of the sparid Acanthopagrus butcheri in three normally closed and variably hypersaline estuaries differ markedly. Environmental Biology of Fishes 80(4): 363-376.

Doubleday, Z.A., C. Izzo, J.A. Haddy, J.M. Lyle, Q. Ye & B.M. Gillanders. 2015. Long-term patterns in estuarine fish growth across two climatically divergent regions. Oecologia: 12 pp.

Edgar, G.J. 2008. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 2, 624 pp.

Farrington, L.W., Austin, C.M. & Coutin, P.C. 2000. Allozyme variation and stock structure in the black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro) (Sparidae) in southern Australia: implications for fisheries management, aquaculture and taxonomic relationship with Acanthopagrus australis (Günther). Fisheries Management and Ecology 7: 265-279.

Gardner, M.J., A. Cottingham, N.M. Phillips, S.A. Hesp, J.A. Chaplin & G.I. Jenkins. 2010. Biological performance and genetics of restocked and wild Black Bream in the Blackwood River Estuary. Murdoch University Report, Perth, 60 pp.

Gomon, M.F 1994. Family Sparidae. pp. 599-602, figs 530-531 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Emmelichthyidae, Gerreidae, Sparidae, Sciaenidae, Mullidae. pp. 585-592 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Gray, C. 2008. Life history and biology of Black Bream in southern NSW. Final Report to NSW Recreational Fishing Trust, November 2008. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre, 14 pp.

Grixti, D.G., Conron, S.D., Morison, A. & Jones, P.J. 2008. Estimating post‐release survival and the influential factors for recreationally caught Black Bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri) in the Glenelg River, south eastern Australia. Fisheries Research 92: 303‐313.

Haddy, J.A. & Pankhurst, N.W. 1998. Annual change in reproductive condition and plasma concentrations of sex steroids in black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro) (Sparidae). Marine Freshwater Research 49: 389-397.

Hassell, K.L., Coutin, P.C. & Nugegoda, D. 2008. Hypoxia impairs embryo development and survival in black Bream Acanthopagrus butcheri. Marine Pollution Bulletin 57: 302‐306.

Hindell, J.S. 2007. Determining patterns of use by black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro, 1949) of re-established habitat in a south-eastern Australian estuary. Journal of Fish Biology. 71: 1331-1346.

Hindell, J.S., Jenkins, G.P. & Womersley, B. 2008. Habitat utilization and movement of black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri (Sparidae) in an Australian estuary. Marine Ecology Progress Series 366: 219-229.

Hoeksema, S.D., Chuwen, B.M. & Potter I.C. 2006. Massive mortalities of the black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri (Sparidae) in two normally-closed estuaries, following extreme increases in salinity. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 86: 893–897.

Holt, C.P. 1978. The biology of three teleost species in the Swan River Estuary. Honours Thesis, Murdoch University, Western Australia, 50 pp.

Hsu, T.-H., Guillén Madrid, A.G., Burridge, C.P., Cheng, H.-Y. & Gwo, J.-C. 2011. Resolution of the Acanthopagrus black seabream complex based on mitochondrial and amplified fragment-length polymorphism analyses. Journal of Fish Biology 79: 1182–1192.

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

Hutchins, J.B. & Thompson, M. 1983. The Marine and Estuarine Fishes of South-western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 103 pp. 345 figs.

Iwatsuki, Y. 2013. Review of the Acanthopagrus latus complex (Perciformes: Sparidae) with descriptions of three new species from the Indo-West Pacific Ocean. Journal of Fish Biology  83(1): 64-95

Iwatsuki, Y., Kume, M. & Yoshino, T. 2010. A new species, Acanthopagrus pacificus from the Western Pacific (Pisces, Sparidae). Bulletin of the National Museum of Nature and Science Series A 36(4): 115–130

Iwatsuki, Y. & Carpenter, K.E. 2006. Acanthopagrus taiwanensis, a new sparid fish (Perciformes), with comparisons to Acanthopagrus berda (Forsskål, 1775) and other nominal species of Acanthopagrus. Zootaxa 1202: 1-19

Jenkins, G.I., Frankish, K.R. & Partridge, G.J. 1999. Manual for the diet production of black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri). Aquaculture Development Unit, Information Series 1999/1. Fremantle Maritime Centre, 125 pp.

Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. & Grieve, C. 1993. Australian Fisheries Resources. Canberra : Bureau of Resource Sciences and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 422 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

Lenanton, R.C., Ayvazian, S.G., Dibden, C., Jenkins, G. & Sarre, G. 1999. The use of stock enhancement to improve the catch rates of black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro) for Western Australian recreational fishers. In: B.R. Howell, E. Moksness & T. Svoesand (eds). Stock enhancement and sea ranching. Fishing News Books, Oxford, pp. 219-230.

Lenanton, R.C.J. & Potter, I.C. 1987. Contribution of estuaries to commercial fisheries in temperate Western Australia and the concept of estuarine dependence. Estuaries 10: 28–35.

Morison, A.K., Coutin, P.C., Robertson, S.G. 1998. Age determination of black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Sparidae), from the Gippsland lakes of south-eastern Australia indicates slow growth and episodic recruitment. Marine and Freshwater Research 49: 491-498.

Munro, I.S.R. 1949. Revision of Australian silver breams, Mylio and RhabdosargusMemoirs of the Queensland Museum 12(4): 182-223 figs 1-5 pls 16-23 (as Mylio butcheri) See ref at BHL

Norriss, J.V., Tregonning, J.E., Lenanton, R.C.J. & Sarre, G.A. 2002. Biological synopsis of the black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro) (Teleostei: Sparidae) in Western Australia with reference to information from other southern states. Fisheries Research Report 93: 1-48.

Potter, I.C., French, D.J.W., Jenkins, G.I., Hesp, S.A., Hall, N.G., & de Lestang, S. 2008. Comparisons of the growth and gonadal development of otolith-stained, cultured black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri, in an estuary with those of its wild stock. Reviews in Fisheries Science 16: 303-316.

Roughley, T.C. 1957. Fish and Fisheries of Australia. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 341 pp.

Rowland, S.J. 1984. Hybridization between the estuarine fishes yellowfin bream, Acanthopagrus australis (Günther), and black bream, A. butcheri (Munro) (Pisces: Sparidae). Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 35: 427-440.

Rowland, S.J. & Snape, R. 1994. Labile protogynous hermaphroditism in the black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro) (Sparidae). Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 114 (1): 225–232. ISSN 0370-047X

Sakabe, R. & Lyle, J.M. 2008. Movement of Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri, in relation to water quality, habitat, and life history characteristics. Internal Report, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, University of Tasmania, 34 pp.

Sakabe, R. & Lyle, J.M. 2010. The influence of tidal cycles and freshwater inflow on the distribution and movement of an estuarine resident fish Acanthopagrus butcheri. Journal of Fish Biology 77(3): 643-660.

Sarre, G.A. 1999. Age compositions, growth rates, reproductive biology and diets of the black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri in four estuaries and a coastal saline lake in south-western Australia. Ph.D. thesis, Murdoch University, Western Australia.

Sarre, G.A., Partridge, G.J., Lenanton, R.C.J., Jenkins, G.I. & Potter I.C. 1999. Elucidation of the characteristics of inland fresh and saline water bodies that influence growth and survival of black bream. Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Report No. 97/309.

Sarre, G.A., Platell M.E. & Potter, I.C. 2000. Do the dietary compositions of Acanthopagrus butcheri in four estuaries and a coastal lake vary with body size and season and within and amongst these water bodies? Journal of Fish Biology 56: 103–122.

Sarre, G.A. & Potter, I.C. 1999. Comparisons between the reproductive biology of black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri (Teleostei : Sparidae) in four estuaries with widely differing characteristics. Intern J Salt Lake Res 8: 179–210.

Sarre, G.A. & Potter, I.C. 2000. Variation in age composition and growth rates of Acanthopagrus butcheri (Sparidae) among estuaries: some possible contributing factors. Fish Bull 98: 785–799.

Shand, J., Archer, M.A. & Collin, S.P. 1999. Ontogenetic changes in the retinal photoreceptor mosaic of the black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Sparidae, Teleostei). Journal of Comparative Neurology 412(2): 203-217.

Shand, J., Chin, S.M., Harman, A.M. & Collin, S.P. 2000. The relationship between the position of the retinal area centralis and feeding behaviour in juvenile black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri (Sparidae: Teleostei). Philos Trans Royal Soc London B 355: 1183–1186.

Shand, J., Doving, K. & Collin, S.P. 1999. Optics of the developing fish eye: Comparisons of Matthiessen’s ratio and the focal length of the lens in the black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri. Vision Research 39: 1071-1079.

Sheaves, M. 2006. Is the timing of spawning in sparid fishes a response to sea temperature regimes? Coral Reefs 25: 655–669

Sherwood, J.E. & Backhouse, G.N. 1982. Hydrodynamics of salt wedge estuaries - implications for successful spawning in black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri). Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education, Faculty of Applied Science and Technology, Research Report 82/3, 5 pp. + figs.

Walker, S. & Neira, F.J. 2001. Aspects of the reproductive biology and early life history of black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Sparidae), in a brackish lagoon system in southeastern Australia. Aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology 4(4): 135-142

Walker, S., Sporcic, M. & Coutin, P. 1998. Development of an environment-recruitment model for black bream: a case study for estuarine fisheries management. Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute, Queenscliff, Victoria. FRDC Project 96/102, Final Report, 74 pp.

Weng, H.T-C. 1971. The black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro); its life history and its fishery in South Australia. MSc thesis, Department of Zoology, University of Adelaide.

Weng, H.T-C. 1971. The Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro): Its life history and fishery in South Australia. Ph.D Thesis. University of Adelaide.

Williams, J., Hindell, J.S., Jenkins, G.P. Tracey, S., Hartmann, K. & Swearer, S.E. 2017. The influence of freshwater flows on two estuarine resident fish species show differential sensitivity to the impacts of drought, flood and climate change. Environmental Biology of Fish

Williams, J., Hindell, J.S., Swearer, S.E. & Jenkins, G.P. 2012. Influence of freshwater flows on the distribution of eggs and larvae of black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri within a drought-affected estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 80(6): 2281-2301.

Williams, J., Jenkins, G.P., Hindell, J.S. & Swearer, S.E. 2013. Linking freshwater flows and salt-wedge dynamics with the Distribution of Black Bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri, eggs larvae and potential prey in a drought affected estuary. Marine Ecology Progress Series 483: 273-287.

Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. (eds) 1999. Australian Seafood Handbook. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 460 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37353003


Depth:0-30 m

Fishing:Important recreational & commercial fish


Max Size:60 cm TL, 4 kg


Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map