Exploring Australia's cuisine in depth, you will encounter the seafood treasure of Australia's southern coastal waters - commonly known as Bigeye Bass (Arripis georgianus). Known for its delicate flavor and versatile cooking options, this fish has become a popular choice among seafood lovers.
Although the Australian herring (bigeye barbas) superficially resembles northern hemisphere herrings, it is actually a member of the family Arripidae and not a true herring (family Clupeidae). The Australian heelfish is sometimes called tommy ruff in South Australia and Victoria, which is now the standard adopted name for the species throughout its range.
The Australian sealing fish has a slender body, silver color, and obvious markings on both sides. Its streamlined shape and smooth scales enhance its visual appeal.
There are four members of the Arripidae family, including the Western Australian salmon (Arripis truttaceus), which in its juvenile stage can easily be confused with the adult hilinger. It is reported that the maximum length of Schilling fish can reach 41 cm, but the length generally caught is about 20-25 cm. Larger adult Schilling fish are often called "Bull" Schilling fish.
Australian heelfish usually reach sexual maturity when females are approximately 20 cm in length and males are approximately 18 cm in length. This corresponds to an age between two and three years.
These fish are commonly found in coastal waters of southern Australia, preferring bays, estuaries and sandy shorelines.
After spawning, adults remain in Western Australia and remain on the west coast (without returning to the south coast). These adults are dispersed throughout coastal waters, some entering estuaries and others moving north along the west coast to Shark Bay. Adults feed nearshore on a variety of small fish and crustaceans. Those fish that enter estuaries may encounter more abundant food and may grow larger and fatter than their coastal relatives. Occasionally, juvenile hilings will enter estuaries along the south coast and become trapped within enclosed sandbars. They can stay there for long periods of time without reproducing, fattening up on the abundance of food.
The Australian heelfish is an endemic species to Australia and is found in the coastal waters of southern Australia, from Shark Bay in Western Australia to Port Phillip Bay in Victoria. They are found around offshore and offshore islands and in the lower parts of estuaries. The Australian heeling fish consists of a fish genetic resource.
The life cycle of the sealing fish is heavily influenced by the Leeuwin Current, which carries warm tropical water south along the continental shelf off the coast of Western Australia. In years when the Leeuwin Current is strong, pre-spawn adults tend not to swim as far to the west coast because they swim against the current. However, strong currents transport and disperse the larvae along the south coast to Victoria. In years with weaker currents, most larvae remain in Western Australian waters, recruiting to nurseries on the lower west coast close to spawning grounds. These factors in turn influence the success of juvenile recruitment and the catchability and abundance of adults.
Culinary uses and preparation
Has many uses
Australian Shilling fish is prized for its delicate, slightly sweet flavor and can be used in a variety of cooking.
It can be grilled, pan-fried, roasted, and even used in soups and stews. Its medium-textured flesh adapts well to different cooking techniques, allowing chefs and home cooks to try different recipes.
From a simple lemon and herb grilled tiffin to more elaborate seafood platters, Australian Shilling fish is the star ingredient that complements a variety of flavours.
Australian Schilling Fish is a rich source of lean protein and provides essential amino acids that support muscle health and overall health.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Like many other fish, walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their heart-healthy benefits, including reducing inflammation and supporting brain function.
vitamins and minerals
Fish provides essential nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B12 and selenium, contributing to a well-rounded and nutritious diet.
Its significance in Australian cuisine
The Australian shilling has great cultural significance along Australia's southern coast and has been part of the local culinary landscape for generations.
The Tommy Love's popularity extends beyond commercial fishing, with many locals and visitors enjoying recreational fishing to catch this rare species.
Despite its small size, the Schilling is a highly acrobatic fish that is a favorite among both novice and experienced recreational fishermen. Using berley can make the Xiling fish school "fall into" a crazy feeding state. It consists of polard and fish oil. In this case, it's possible to catch a fish on almost every cast. The Australian hilinger has historically been the most common finfish retained by recreational fishermen in Western Australia. It is estimated that shore-based fishermen capture the majority of the catch, with boat-based fishermen capturing the remainder. Each year, schilling is typically the most common finfish caught from shore and the second most common fish caught from boats.
Fishing tournaments and festivals celebrate the Australian hilinger, bringing communities together to share their love of this delicious fish.
Sustainable fishing practices
As with any seafood, sustainable fishing practices are critical to ensuring the long-term health of fish stocks and marine ecosystems. Australian authorities and fisheries departments are committed to regulating fishing activities to maintain ecological balance.
Commercial catches of schilling have declined significantly since the 1990s, meaning commercial catch rates as an indicator of hiling abundance are increasingly unreliable. As a result, reliance on recreational fishing data has increased. Since 2005, catch rate data collected from Research Angling Program (RAP) logs have provided a more reliable picture of abundance in many areas. The Department of Fisheries also conducts annual beach seine sampling to survey for juvenile hiling fish. This gives an annual picture of recruitment and is used to predict adult fish abundance and catches two to three years later. Recruiting on the lower and south coast has been very low since 2000 compared to the late 1990s. Surveys of recreational catches of schilling fish in the West Coast bioregion in the 1990s and in recent years found that female schilling fish accounted for 60-70% of the total annual catch, and accounted for up to 85% of the autumn catch.
It is thought that females may need to feed more vigorously while laying eggs. Harvesting such a high proportion of reborn females is a concern for fishery managers, given that they are heavily targeted by fishermen during the fall spawning period. The department's recent research has focused on determining the age structure of the Schilling fish population. Researchers were able to determine the fish's age based on its otoliths. The researchers also sought to determine what proportion of the Schilling catch came from each nursery area. Differences in otolith shape and chemical composition of juvenile fish can provide unique "nursery signatures" that can be used to determine the origin of adult fish. Research shows that hiling stocks have been depleted and total hiling catches must be halved to reduce the impact of fishing and provide the best chance of recovery. The study is part of the most rigorous assessment of nearshore finfish ever conducted in a West Coast bioregion.
The commercial south coast G-net fishery closed in March 2015 after research showed that hiling stocks were depleted and total catches had to be halved to provide the best chance of recovery. Historically, this fishery has produced most of WA's commercial catch using long nets on limited south coast beaches. Traditionally, the caught fish were sold to fresh fish markets or as bait and animal feed for the western rock lobster and southern rock lobster fisheries. Management strategies to aid the recovery of schilling fish populations prioritize the use of schilling fish for recreational purposes and human consumption. On the west and south coasts, small numbers of hiling are still commercially fished via purse seines, gill nets and line fishing.
At its peak in the early 1990s, commercial hilin catches exceeded 1,500 tonnes. Since then, both catch and effort have declined significantly. They reached historically low levels in 2011 and remained at very low levels in 2012. Declines in commercial catches and efforts are influenced by economic factors such as low marketability and reduced fish availability in many areas. In recent years, fish processors have purchased only limited quantities of Schilling, effectively limiting commercial fishing.
Commercial and recreational fishermen are encouraged to follow responsible fishing practices, including adhering to catch limits and size limits.
With its delicious taste and nutritional value, Australian sealing proves the diversity and richness of seafood in Australia's coastal waters. Whether enjoyed at a casual beachside barbecue or in delicious seafood dishes, Tommy Ruff continues to capture the hearts and taste buds of those who appreciate Australia's rich culinary heritage. As Australians and international food lovers continue to explore sustainable and delicious seafood options, Australian shilling remains a shining star in the country’s vibrant culinary landscape.