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Government Grant to Further Protect Seabirds from Trawlers

14 January 2014

AUSTRALIA - The South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA) has received a A$360,000 Australian Government grant to continue work on protecting seabirds from fishing boats.

The Caring for our Country grant will be used to further reduce the low number of collisions that occur between seabirds and the cables used to tow trawl nets.

Simon Boag, SETFIA’s EO explained: "All trawl vessels in South East Australia and the Great Australian Bight operate with regulated Seabird Management Plans to limit interactions with seabirds. These plans incorporate measures like managing their offal by batching or retaining it (to avoid attracting the seabirds) and using a device that protects seabirds from bumping into trawl cables.”

“Most vessels currently use large inflatable buoys attached to the vessel to ensure that seabirds do not collide with trawl cables. Although the buoys are effective, they are very difficult to use, and don’t work as well, because they tangle. So we’re keen to use the grant to develop alternative mitigation measures that are at least as effective as the buoys, but are more practical for use on trawl vessels.”

Video footage of the buoys in action can be seen here.

“The grant will be spent on trials of new methods to avoid harming seabirds, and will be monitored by scientific observers. Observers will be used to monitor and validate the use of water sprayers as seabird deterrents.”

A video of the sprayer that is under development can be seen here.

Additional scientific observer coverage will be used to test a yet-to-be identified approach to mitigation. Fishermen will be asked to nominate concepts for devices and a panel of experts will select a second device that will be tested.

The grant will also allow several young fishermen from South East Australia and the Great Australian Bight to travel to New Zealand to learn about New Zealand seabird mitigation measures. By creating champions we hope to drive innovation within the Australian fishery. We hope to that an expert from New Zealand can travel to Australia to help Australian trawl fishermen develop more methods to avoid any harm to seabirds.

All work will be managed by leading fisheries consulting firm Fishwell Consulting. All work will occur in collaboration with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. SETFIA will also partner with the Great Australian Bight Fishing Industry Association to ensure all of South Eastern Australia is covered.

Mr Boag added: “Fishermen in all Commonwealth trawl fisheries are developing a reputation for strong environmental stewardship. Australian fisheries are amongst the best managed in the world, and this grant will support our efforts to continue world leadership on environmental measures. If consumers want to make a sustainable seafood choice, they should buy Australian fish.”

TheFishSite News Desk

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