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Summary

This research represents the first age-based demographic assessment of pearl perch, Glaucosoma scapulare (Ramsay, 1881), a highly valued species endemic to coastal waters off central eastern Australia. The study was conducted across the species' distribution that encompasses two state jurisdictions (Queensland in the north and New South Wales in the south) using data collected approximately 10 years apart in each state. Estimates of age were made by counting annuli (validated using marginal increment ratios) in sectioned sagittal otoliths. The maximum estimated age was 19 years. Pearl perch attained approx. 12 cm fork length (FL) after one year, 21 cm FL after 2 years and 29 cm FL after 3 years. Fish from the southern end of the species' distribution grew significantly more slowly than those from the northern part of its range. Commercial landings in the north were characterized by greater proportions of larger (>40 cm FL) and older (>6 years) fish than those in the south, with landings mainly of fish between 3 and 6 years of age. The observed variations in age-based demographics of pearl perch highlight the need for a better understanding of patterns of movement and reproduction in developing a model of population dynamics and life-history for this important species. There is a clear need for further, concurrent, age-based studies on pearl perch in the northern and southern parts of its distribution to support the conclusions of the present study based on data collected a decade apart.