Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Bycatch Reduction in Australia’s South East Trawl Fishery: Letting the Message Get Through as Well as the Fish

Ian Knuckey, Crispian Ashby, Terry Moran


Australia’s South East Trawl Fishery (SETF) is a complex multispecies fishery that provides most of the fresh fish for markets in southeastern Australia and includes a growing export market to Asia. Managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), the SETF is a commonwealth fishery extending to the outer limit of the 200 mi Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) off the states of South Australia, east from Kangaroo Island around Victoria and Tasmania to Barrenjoey Point in New South Wales (Figure 1).

The fishery operates in various habitats in the shelf and upper slope waters over this wide geographical area. As such, more than 100 species of fish and invertebrates are landed (Klaer and Tilzey 1994) from catches of more than 400 species (Knuckey et al. 2000). Sixteen of the landed species (blue grenadier Macruronus novaezelandiae, ling Genypterus blacodes, orange roughy Hoplostethus atlanticus, redfish Centroberyx affinis, mirror dory Zenopsis nebulosis, John dory Zues faber, ocean perch Helicolenus percoides, tiger flathead Neoplatycephalus richardsoni, school whiting Sillago flindersi, silver trevally Pseudocaranx dentex, jackass morwong Nemadactylus macropterus, gemfish Rexea solandri, blue eye trevalla Hyperoglyphe antarctica, blue warehou Seriolella brama, spotted warehou Seriolella punctata, and royal red prawn Haliporoides sibogae) are under quota management and constitute more than 80% of the landed catch and about 90% of the landed value of around AUS$50 million (Smith and Wayte 2000).

Worldwide, concern is increasing about the ecological impacts of trawling (Hall 1996). In the SETF, like in other trawl fisheries, issues such as high bycatch levels, habitat degradation, and perceptions of waste must be addressed.

Under Section 3 of the Fisheries Management Act 1991 (Commonwealth), AFMA is required to ensure “that the exploitation of fisheries resources and the carrying on of any related activities are conducted in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development and the exercise of the precautionary principle, in particular the need to have regard to the impact of fishing activities on nontarget species and the long term sustainability of the marine environment.” An important part of achieving this objective was the establishment of the Integrated Scientific Monitoring Programme (ISMP), which uses onboard field scientists to record the quantity, size, and age composition of the retained and discarded catch taken by board trawlers and Danish seine vessels working in the SETF (Knuckey et al. 1999). Although the program initially was funded by AFMA, industry now recognizes the value of this information, and 75% of the cost is now recovered from the catching sector.