Fishing industry leads charge to reduce net bycatch



Queensland fishermen are behind a new research project to reduce the risk of tangling species such as dugongs and turtles in their nets.

The project is being headed by James Cook University’s Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture and funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) on behalf of the Australian Government.

Project leader Mr David Welch from JCU said that the main aim of the project was to identify net designs that decrease the likelihood of species of conservation concern getting caught, while improving safety and maintaining the fishing efficiency for target species such as barramundi.

“The idea behind this research came directly from fishers who have been modifying their fishing gears to reduce the risk of tangling dugong and turtles.

“Preliminary trials tell us that different net types can significantly reduce the chance of entanglement of large bycatch species. As part of the project we will design and trial a few options to find the best outcome,” he said.

Conservation and management groups are increasingly concerned about the status of large marine life such as dugong, marine turtles and dolphins.

Although interactions between these animals and fishing gear is very low, the fishing industry want to do all they can to continuously improve their practices and gear to achieve this.

The research will be conducted this year in the inshore waters around Townsville and in Moreton Bay.

Fisheries Queensland manager Mark Lightowler said commercial fishers have significant pressures placed on them to fish in ways that protect the environment and continually reduce impacts onanimals such as dugong.

“Leaders in the fishing industry should be commended for taking the initiative to change fishing practices to minimiseimpacts on dugong and other protected species,” Mr Lightowler said.

The project is a partnership of fisheries scientists from JCU and scientists and managers from Fisheries Queensland, commercial fishers from the Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association and Queensland Seafood Industry Association, as well as managers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.