Removing seabirds from the otterboard trawler danger zone.
South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA)
Simon A. Boag
The conservation status of seabirds means that any level of interaction is of serious concern. The only known mitigation strategy known to reduce interactions to almost zero is to not discard biological material (discards and offal) while fishing gear is in the water. In late March AFMA advised industry that vessels fishing south of 38.00 (the Victorian southern coast) would not be able to discard biological material while fishing. This regulation is to be rolled out in two phases starting executed in July and September 2019. AFMA contend that this will reduce catches on impacted (southern) trawlers by 20% but SETFIA believes that this might be up to 40%. AFMA and SETFIA agree that the SETF's revenue will reduce by $6-12m from $40m to $28-34m in its current form. Additional AFMA management costs associated with seabird mitigation will bring 2019/20 levies to $3m which will be 9-11% of revenue. SETFIA and AFMA have agreed that in principle exemptions can be granted IF vessels can prove that seabirds are no longer attracted to the area where trawl warps enter the water (the "danger" zone). The purpose of this urgent application is to seek emergency funding to fund innovation around how trawl vessels might stop birds from entering this danger zone. Without a solution it is likely that given the increase in levies of $0.5-1.0m and decrease in revenue, many southern trawl vessel operations will cease to be profitable and leave the fishery. Further, small New Zealand trawlers are not subject to any seabird mitigations; this fleet is the main competitor to SETF sales. As vessels exit the fishery the levy base will be spread across remaining vessels and the fishery may be reach a tipping point in which it collapses. The SETF is the major supplier of local finfish to the Sydney and Melbourne fish markets and it the largest Commonwealth managed finfish fishery in Australia.
1. Development of strategies to remove seabirds from the danger zone (between trawl warps and the water), i.e. achieve exemptions from the "no biological material discharge while fishing" rule
2. When successful distribute these strategies to other trawl fishers allowing them to duplicate them where possible