Category Archives: IN THE NEWS

Danish Seine Fishermen Act to Protect Juvenile Flathead Stocks

21st June 2018

The harvest strategy in the South-East aims to maintain tiger flathead stocks at a pre-determined % of the pre-fishing, or virgin, biomass.   This is called the target reference point.  The flathead stock has been above this target for many years so fishermen have enjoyed quotas (total allowable catches or TACs) designed to slightly reduce flathead stocks down to that reference point.  However, the last flathead assessment showed that flathead is almost at that reference point so the quota has declined.

Less quota means less revenue so fishermen within the Association began to think about how to increase the per kg value of flathead.  One way is to catch larger flathead because larger flathead have a higher per kg price.  The market pays more for larger flathead because they are easier to fillet and they returns a higher yield of fillets as a % of whole weight.

Using larger mesh in the last section of the net called the codend increases the average size of flathead caught.

However, using larger mesh and not catching medium sized fish means less catch which means that fishermen must shoot their net more often, spend more time at sea and potentially increase their operating costs.  There are also costs to change to new fishing gear.

The debate was not an easy one but SETFIA members have resolved through a formal vote to increase Danish seine mesh size.  Two non-SETFIA member seiners were contacted and both supported the idea.

SETFIA has written to AFMA stating that they would like AFMA to increase the minimum mesh size in Danish Seine codends to 75mm by 1 May 2019 (the start of the new fishing season).

SETFIA has contacted fishing gear suppliers and advised them of the likely change so that they can adjust their supply.

Sustainable fishing practices protect our future.

 

 

Major changes in arrangements for commercial fishing in new Australian Marine Parks

21st June 2018

From July 1 2018, new Australian Marine Park management plans will come into effect, creating new rules for where fishing can occur in 44 marine parks around the country. Australian Marine Parks are located in Commonwealth waters, 3 to 200 nautical miles from the coastline, beyond state water boundaries.

Commercial fishing can occur in yellow and blue zones within these new Networks, in accordance with a class approval issued under each management plan. Class approvals set out the areas where commercial fishing can occur, the fishing methods that can be used, and the conditions that need to be followed while operating or transiting.

Parks Australia aims to contact all operators that fish in or near these new Australian Marine Parks, to inform them of the new requirements in advance of 1 July. This will include the final class approvals and factsheets for the Coral Sea Marine ParkTemperate East NetworkSouth-west NetworkNorth-west Network and North Network of Marine Parks. The factsheets will outline what you need to be aware of in order to comply and will include information on how to access electronic maps/files of all marine park boundaries. All documents will soon be available on the Parks Australia website: https://parksaustralia.gov.au/marine/

Arrangements for commercial fishing within the South-east Marine Parks Network are not changing. The requirements in the existing class approval continue to apply.

If you would like more information please

email marineparks@environment.gov.au,

phone 1800 069 352 or,

visit www.parksaustralia.gov.au/marine.

Marine Park Alert System Helpful in the South-East

21st June 2018

Marine parks are recognised globally as a tool that can contribute to protecting some marine environments from potentially damaging fishing methods such as trawling.  The South-East Trawl Fishery is proud to operate within a network of 14 Australian Marine Parks covering 388,000 km2.  The Association sees these marine parks as part of the risk-catch-cost fisheries management decision making trade-off.  Marine parks reduce the risk of commercial fishing, which should reduce fishery management costs and allow harvest strategies to set sustainable quotas.

The effectiveness of marine parks requires that fishing methods likely to harm the conservation values in that park are excluded from some parks. This requires compliance, including awareness of rules, monitoring and enforcement.  This can involve satellite photography monitoring, manned and unmanned aerial and sea patrols, acoustic detection and satellite-aided vessel monitoring systems.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), Parks Australia and SETFIA have worked together to set up a Marine Park Alert Service in the South-East and the newsletter has reported on this previously.  This system has since been rolled out to all Australian Marine Parks.  The backbone of this service is the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) platform; a satellite tracking system that is required on all Commonwealth managed fishing vessels that relays the position, speed, time and identity of vessels back to AFMA.

Under this marine park alert service an SMS message is sent to skipper and/or licence holder when the vessel enters a marine park  where the fishing method is not allowed. The alert is generated and sent following an initial poll and is only sent once (not repeatedly) when a vessel enters a zone, and then sent again on any subsequent new entry. This is to avoid excessive alerts being sent to a vessel, which could result in diminished effectiveness.

It is important to note that fishing vessels are allowed to transit through Marine Parks, but some fishing methods are not allowed in some marine parks.  For example, bottom trawling is not allowed in any of the South-East Australia’s Marine Parks.

The efficacy of the service has been recently reviewed by Parks Australia using three years of vessel monitoring system (VMS) data from AFMA.  Parks Australia has studied the tracks of vessels that entered within one mile of a marine park and received an alert.  The analysis aimed to identify tracks that might indicate fishing.  For trawlers, this involved looking at vessels travelling at less than 4 knots, noting that slower speeds also can indicate ‘dodging’ into bad weather.  For longliners, fishing was identified as a track pattern, typical with the setting and hauling of longlines.

In the three years studied, a total of 2,291 alerts were sent to skippers and concession holders to Commonwealth fishing vessels in marine park boundaries where the fishing method of that vessel was not allowed in that park.  On 18 occasions vessels appeared to receive an alert and then either departed or ceased fishing outside the marine park. These vessels may have already been planning to stop fishing prior to entering the marine park or may not have even been fishing, but there is a chance that some were fishing, received the alert and immediately stopped fishing possibly preventing a compliance incident occurring.

Prior to the alert service, AFMA ran regular VMS reports of South-East fishing vessels inside marine parks who were travelling at less than 5 knots.  After an initial human common sense scan where some vessels were identified as not fishing a ‘show cause’ letter was sent to the remaining operators asking them to explain their actions.  This was a lengthy and costly process with almost all vessels inside marine parks being false positives.

The alert service aims to prevent unintentional and intentional breaches, before a fishing vessel fishes within a marine park where it is not permitted to do so.  If this is possible it will significantly reduce the amount of tax payer funded work required to identify and pursue fishing vessels through show-cause.

When this review was completed the South-East’s Marine Parks had been in place for more than ten years, so fishermen know where the parks are and are used to being monitored by VMS.

When the national system of Marine Parks comes into effect on 1 July 2018 there will be ten-fold increase in the area of marine parks – to three million km2 consisting of 59 marine parks around Australia.  The alert service has proven itself to be a cost-effective and efficient way that contributes to reducing accidental and intentional illegal fishing activities in marine parks.  The fishing industry may find this free service helpful given the complexity of so many new marine parks in which allowable fishing methods vary given different zoning arrangements.  The challenge with implementing this service will be that many State and Territory managed fisheries do not currently require vessels to operate VMS, meaning that for some fishers the service will not be available, at least in the short term.

More information on the alert service can be found here.

We need your help to understand the diet of Shy Albatross

21st June 2018

By Dr Rachael Aderman

Wildlife Management Branch – Marine Conservation Program DPIPWE

The shy albatross breeds nowhere else in the world apart from three tiny islands in Tasmania—Albatross Island in the north and Pedra Branca (pictured) and the Mewstone in the south. Unlike many of the other albatross species that travel widely across the Southern Oceans, most of the shy albatross population remains year-round within the south-east Australian shelf waters. They are truly Australia’s own.

The total population is estimated to be around 15, 000 annual breeding pairs. Like the other 21 albatross species around the world, the shy albatross is of high conservation concern. Albatross are very slow to mature and they have a very low reproductive rate. This means that even a slight increase in mortality or reduced chance of successful breeding, may have significant consequences for the persistence of a population.

Many of the threats to the shy albatross are encountered while the birds are foraging at sea and include marine pollution and plastics ingestion; fisheries interactions; competition with fisheries or reliance on discards; and a changing ocean environment driven by climate change which  is altering the type, distribution and availability of food sources.

Central to understanding the nature and consequence of these threats is knowing where shy albatross are foraging; what they are eating; and is their diet changing over time?

Researchers from the Tasmanian State Government have been monitoring the shy albatross populations for over thirty years; however, studies of their diet have been limited. Traditionally, the only way to sample their diet is to force the birds to vomit up their most recent meal. This method not only invasive but can also bias the data, as often only the hard parts—such as squid beaks— can be identified.

Now there is a powerful new tool available. DNA analysis of albatross scats (aka poo) allows researchers to identify all the food sources they have recently consumed and in what relative proportions.

Researchers have spent endless days watching shy albatross on their nests on Albatross Island in Bass Strait—waiting for the distinctive sound of an albatross relieving itself – before darting in to collect a tiny precious sample of poo in a vial. Thanks to funding from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporations (FRDC), the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the Tasmanian Albatross Fund, researchers from the Marine Conservation Program of the Tasmanian State Government, in collaboration with CSIRO, are now analysing hundreds of diet samples collected over the past four years.

Key to the success of this project is ensuring that researchers have reference DNA sequences for all potential species the shy albatross could consume.

While we have managed to find samples from most of their likely food sources, DNA sequences from some key species of fish are still missing. SETFIA has kindly offered to help supply samples to fill these gaps. In coming weeks, we will be circulating to SETFIA fishers our ’most wanted’ list, complete with mug-shots and a how-to-guide. With your help, we hope to be able to create a complete picture of the diet of this incredible species.

[FRDC project 2016-118: Using scat DNA to inform sustainable fisheries management and Ecological Risk Assessments: a Shy Albatross case study]

Autonomous saildrones out and about

23rd May 2018

Through the GipNet Environmental Monitoring Research Initiative, CSIRO are trialing the use of a saildrone, a type of Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) to collect a range of oceanic data in Bass Strait.

The saildrones are controlled remotely through satellite communications and are powered by wind and solar. They are also equipped with navigation lights, radar reflectors and an Automated Identification System (AIS) beacon to help prevent collisions. The saildrones are approximately 7m in length and 4m in height and have an average speed of around 3 knots (max 8 knots).

They have been equipped with advanced monitoring technology, capable of measuring a range of parameters include carbon dioxide levels in the water. Data collected is being sent back CSIRO researchers in near real time.

The saildrones are designed to travel anywhere in the ocean. Vessel controllers simply plug in coordinates of the area to be monitored and the saildrone makes its way there using its ‘sail.’ Monitoring and communications are powered by an inbuilt solar unit. Each vessel can stay offshore for extended period of time (up to twelve months) without returning to land.

A saildrone is being trailed in Bass Strait to test a range of sensors that ensure this type of platform is reliable, durable and accurate for future monitoring of ocean properties and proposed carbon storage sites. If you see a saildrone, marine users are asked to stay 500m away from the system.

For further information  visit www.co2crc.com.au/gipnet, call the GipNet team on 0467-003122 or watch the video below.

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NSW Southern Trawl Fishery to join the South-East Trawl

18th May 2018

The NSW and Australian Governments have been working on merging the NSW managed Southern Fish Trawl and the Commonwealth managed South East Trawl fisheries. The NSW trawl fishery operates inside 3 nautical miles and the Commonwealth trawl fishery between 3 and 200 nautical miles.

The push for the merger has come because the two fisheries often target the same species with the same trawl method and operate side by side but do so under different rules and restrictions.  The 2016 Productivity Commission report investigated management inefficiencies between Commonwealth and State fisheries and recommended that these fisheries merge.

An agreement between NSW and the Commonwealth sets down how the two fisheries operate and share the resource.

NSW operators have limits on “Commonwealth quota” stocks like tiger flathead. This frustrates NSW operators because they are often forced to discard commercially valuable fish that have little chance of survival.

Commonwealth operators are frustrated because NSW catches are debited to Commonwealth quotas.  This ensures that the sustainable limit, set by the Commonwealth, is not exceeded but means that Commonwealth operators are the last in the line and only receive what NSW don’t catch (noting NSW vessels can only catch limited volumes).  Commonwealth fisheries are also frustrated that the NSW fishery does not contribute to the cost of assessing stocks.

Often fishers hold both NSW and Commonwealth endorsements but cannot operate inside and outside the 3-mile line on a single trip.  This too is inefficient.

All this because a line was placed at 3 nautical miles in NSW based how far a cannon ball could be fired in the 17th century.

The truth is that both sectors have an equally strong right to operate and there must be a better way to organise a fishery.

The NSW and Australian Governments formed the Southern Fish Trawl Working Group made up of fishers, associations and managers from both fisheries, they have agreed how the NSW Southern Fish Trawl could become part of the Commonwealth South East Trawl.  NSW released a consultation document that captured these proposals.  The proposal is that rather than debit NSW catches to Commonwealth quotas, that NSW operators should become Commonwealth operators working on a special permit allowing them inside “the line” (3 miles) and be issued around 246 tonnes of Commonwealth quota.  A separate NSW allocation panel would divide up this quota across the 23 NSW operators.

Under this system there is no change to the sustainable catch and no quota is taken from existing owners to give to new NSW entrants to the Commonwealth system – the catch is already coming off Commonwealth quotas.

The Committee also made recommendations that NSW vessels entering the Commonwealth fishery should operate seabird bafflers, VMS (satellite monitoring) and be subject to normal conditions such as ongoing efforts to reduce discards and by-catch.

SETFIA supports the transition under these terms and believes it offers the many benefits:

* fish trawling in south-east Australia will be managed by a single jurisdiction and many fish species will have a cap on how much can be caught each year;

*better data collection and improved understanding of stock status;

*one jurisdiction removes duplication and administrative burden;

*where the required concessions are held, fishers will be able to complete a single trip inside and outside NSW waters;

*security of access for NSW fishers will be increased

*no more trip limits and less discarded fish from NSW vessels.

The Association is frustrated at some recreational fishing groups who have led with headlines like, “the trawlers are coming”.  This is clearly not the case, there has been a trawl fishery inside NSW waters for more than 100 years.  What is being proposed is just a better outcome for the fishing industry and the Australian community.

ABARES report South-East trawler profitability up

20th April 2018

Latest financial and economic survey results from operators in the Commonwealth Trawl Sector (South East Trawl) shows that the profitability of vessels operating in the fishery improved in 2014-15.

Generating a gross value of fishery production of almost $43 million in 2015-16, the South East Trawl is the major supplier of locally caught finfish to Melbourne and Sydney fish markets.

The survey undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial year show that profit at full equity (a profit indicator that assumes all assets are fully owned by operators) increased for the average boat in the CTS from $131,000 in 2013–14 to nearly $154,000 in 2014–15. The improvement was primarily due to lower average costs on items like fuel.

The rise in average vessel performance is also reflected in an improvement in net economic returns (NERs) from the fishery in 2014-15.  ‘NER’ measures how well the fishery has performed as a whole and accounts for all revenue and costs of the fishery including all management costs, owner labour (even where there is no cash transaction) and capital employed in the fishery.  ABARES estimates that net economic returns continued to improve for the fishery in 2015-16 and 2016-17 reaching $4.2 million by 2016-17. Three years of consecutive growth in returns is great news for trawl operators, particularly as it comes following a three year period of decline.

ABARES is currently undertaking the next survey of Commonwealth Trawl Operators of the fishery covering the 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years.

The latest survey results can be found at:

http://data.daff.gov.au/data/warehouse/9aam/9aame/2018/FinEconPerfSESSF/FinEconPerfSESSF20180410_v1.0.0.pdf.

Alec throws back $100,000 giant squid…

19th April 2018

Alec Harvey, skipper of the Empress Pearl could not believe his eyes when his vessel recently caught this enormous squid. It is the biggest he has ever seen. It was caught in 380m of water off the west coast of Tasmania. It was estimated at 2.5-3 metres long and weighing 80-100kgs.

Based mostly on its size Dr Julian Finn from the Melbourne Museum has tentatively identified the squid as being a ‘giant squid’ (Architeuthis dux).

There is some debate about whether different species of giant squid exist within the genus Architeuthis with some literature reporting eight species and some only a single specie. Some reports say that Alec’s squid was a tiddler with the maximum size reported at 14 metres long. Claims of 20 metre squid have not been scientifically documented.

Squid are a cephalopod and are propelled by pulling water into the mantle cavity, and pushing it through something called a siphon, in gentle, rhythmic pulses. They can also move quickly by expanding the cavity to fill it with water, then contracting muscles to jet water through the siphon.

Giant squid breathe using two large gills inside the mantle cavity. The circulatory system is closed, which is a distinct characteristic of cephalopods. Like other squid, they contain dark ink used to deter predators.

They have sophisticated nervous systems and a complex brain. The giant squid has the largest eyes of any living creature and can be up to 27cm in diameter.

Giant squid feed on deepsea fish and other squids. They catch prey using the two tentacles, gripping it with serrated sucker rings on the ends. Then they bring it toward the powerful beak, and shred it with the radula (a tongue with small, file-like teeth) before swallowing it. They are believed to be solitary hunters, as only individual giant squid have been caught in fishing nets.

Tales of giant squid have been common among mariners since ancient times, and may have led to the legend of the kraken a tentacled sea monster as large as an island capable of engulfing and sinking any ship. Eyewitness accounts of other sea monsters like the sea serpent are also thought to be mistaken interpretations of giant squid.

 

 

 

 

 

Whales are one of the giant squid’s few predators and much of the age data from giant squids come from giant squid mantle’s obtained from sperm whale stomachs.

In December 2005, the Melbourne Aquarium paid A$100,000 for the intact body of a 7 metre giant squid, preserved in a giant block of ice, which had been caught by fishermen off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island that year.

 

The video below is of a live giant squid filmed in a 2013 Discovery Channel documentary.

 

 

Seed bank protects food crop genetics

26th March 2018

Buried deep in the icy mountains of a remote island in Norway, is a seed storage facility that currently houses almost 1 million plant seeds from almost every country in the world.  Located 100 meters inside a mountain on the island of Spitsbergen, in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, 1,300 kilometres from the North Pole its purpose is to be the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply, offering options for future generations to overcome the challenges of climate change and population growth.  It will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important food crop variety available in the world today.

The location for the seed vault was chosen for various reasons; the area is geologically stable, has low humidity and is well above sea level so is unlikely to flood even if sea levels rise significantly.  A temperature of -18ºC is required for optimal storage of the seeds and the permafrost that the vault is built into provides a cost effective and fail safe method of keeping the seeds frozen naturally.  Although remote, Svalbard is still accessible on a commercial flight.

The vault has the maximum capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops which is equivalent to 2.5 billion seeds. It is currently the most diverse collection of food crop seeds in the world ranging from unique varieties of major African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea, and sorghum to European and South American varieties of eggplant, lettuce, barley, and potato.

The global seed vault in Svalbard was established as the final backup to the 1,700 plus gene banks that exist around the world that hold crop seeds for safe keeping.

But in a cruel twist of fate it seems that the seed vault my not be the all-withstanding fortress it was meant to be. The climate is changing and the northern polar region is warming twice as fast as the global average – and the permafrost that is currently preserving the seeds is melting!  Last year’s record soaring temperatures in the Arctic caused melting and heavy rain that that flooded the start of the tunnel that leads to the vault.  If Arctic winter temperatures continue to rise, the so called ‘Doomsday Vault’ itself may be doomed.

There is a growing acceptance that the world’s food production will need to grow by 50-100% by 2050.  Seafood is the largest contributor to the planet’s protein.   Good fisheries management is the ‘vault’ that must protect our fish stocks.