Principle Investigator: Steve Kennelly
Key words: bycatch, fuel efficiency, prawn, trawl, LIFE
This report describes the content, discussion and outcomes that arose from a workshop involving representatives of the prawn-trawl fisheries of Australia and fishing-gear experts to explore the work done so far in developing ways to reduce bycatch and discards and improve fuel efficiency in prawn trawls (both in Australia and overseas), and to identify industry’s priorities for the way forward in this field.
The workshop learned of the many and varied options that are available to prawn trawler operators to reduce bycatch and/or improve fuel efficiency. These included the many physical and behavioural-type bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) and turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) used in or near codends, as well as new work describing a host of options available in the anterior (front) section of the trawl including modifications to the spreading mechanisms (including boards and numbers of nets), net tapers, hanging ratios, twine size, knot orientation, sweeps, ground gears, etc. The workshop also learned of current initiatives occurring in this field in Europe as a result of the implementation of the Landing Obligation (or Discard Ban).
The work presented showed that there now exists an impressive array of options (or ‘tools’) in a trawl gear “toolbox” that could be applied to prawn-trawl fisheries in the country. These tools have the potential to significantly reduce bycatch, habitat impacts and/or fuel usage, depending on the particular circumstances in each fishery. The workshop concluded that these tools now require full extension into individual fisheries so that they can be trialled, appropriately modified, tuned, modified again, etc. to achieve optimal performance in each situation. That is, the various adaptations presented at this workshop need to find their way into the myriad of prawn-trawl fishing operations occurring throughout the country—so that fishers can select appropriate options, use, modify and test them (in a scientifically defensible way and with appropriate approval by their management agency) so they can be adopted for routine use where appropriate.
The workshop ultimately recommended the organisation of a “Prawn Trawl Toolbox Travelling Roadshow”, using the expertise of Australia’s expert gear technologists to explain and discuss these concepts with fishers in each fishery. Then, local fishers should take the 5 various options and adopt them for trial/use in their own situation, leaning on the expertise of our gear technologists.
With regard to developing the existing modifications further via more research, it was felt that a better strategy would be to do the above-mentioned extension roadshow first (i.e. over the next year or so) and monitor other global innovations which are developed in Europe and elsewhere as a result of the increased focus on bycatch reduction and the implementation of the European Discard Ban. This will allow us to take full advantage of the innovations occurring in the Northern Hemisphere (and consider any additional tools that are developed) at a reduced cost.