Hayden Schilling
PhD Candidate
Field of Research: 
Fisheries biology, Coastal ecology, Pelagic ecosystems,
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 3617

Level 4 East

Biological Sciences South (E26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052


hayden photo.jpeg

Ecology of tailor in eastern Australia


Tailor is a popular fish for both commercial and recreational fishers in eastern Australia. Recently there have been stories of a decline in numbers but there has been little scientific work to learn about these fish or to see if they are actually in decline. Working closely with NSW and QLD Fisheries, my research studies the ecology of tailor in eastern Australia and will contribute to a management plan to ensure there are fish to catch and eat in the future. Four key aspects of my work are:

  1. Diet - What do tailor eat?

-          Identifying the stomach contents of tailor is showing a large and varied diet dominated by small baitfish. Some fish contain up to 15 anchovies!

  1. Reproduction - Where and when do tailor reproduce?

-          Using monthly samples of fish from the entire NSW Coast, I can identify where and when the tailor are reproducing.

-          A late summer reproductive event has been shown in northern NSW for the first time.

  1. Growth - How fast do tailor grow and how old are the fish being caught?

-          Just like a tree, the ear-bones of fish grow rings which can be counted to age fish. For example the ear-bone below is from a 4 year old fish (annual rings numbered)

  1. Movement - How mixed is the tailor stock? For example; do tailor swim up and down the entire coast as part of a large group or do they stay in smaller groups?

-          As fish grow, their ear-bones also grow while absorbing elements from the surrounding water. These elements can be used as natural ‘tags’ which can then be used to trace the movement of the fish.

Ear bone of a 65cm tailor showing 4 annual rings


If you would like to contribute to this research and learn more about the fish you catch, donations of tailor frames can be made through the NSW Research Angler Program. For more information please see; http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/recreational/resources/fish-tagging/researchangler 



Professor Iain Suthers

Dr James Smith

Dr Jason Everett

Dr John Stewart (NSW DPI)

Dr Julian Hughes (NSW DPI)



Schilling, H. T., Hughes, J. M., Smith, J. A., Everett, J. D., Stewart, J., & Suthers, I. M. (2017) Latitudinal and ontogenetic variation in the diet of a pelagic mesopredator (Pomatomus saltatrix), assessed with a classification tree analysis. Marine Biology, 164(4), 75