Category Archives: Odd Spot

Fish of the Day: Cookie Cutter Shark

20th July 2016

Today’s fish of the day is Isistius brasiliensis, the Cookie-cutter shark.

cookie cutter shark 1cookie cutter shark 2







Found throughout the world’s deep oceans and growing to only 50 cm long, this tiny shark packs a surprisingly nasty set of teeth. It can open its jaws almost 90 degrees forming its mouth into a suction-cup. Though no-one has ever actually seen the cookie-cutter feed, it is suspected of causing the strange circular bites which have caused damage to a wide range of marine inhabitants including whales, seals, dolphins, large fishes, great white sharks, people and even nuclear submarines! The distinctive, round, gouge-like bite marks have been found on the neoprene sonar-absorbent coating of submarines.

Cookie cutter bite mark on dolphin

How do we suspect that this tiny shark is the culprit of these strange bites marks? Well, plugs of flesh have been found digesting inside the stomachs of these sharks which match the shape of the gouges taken out of their victims.

In addition to a wicked set of jaws, the cookie-cutter shark is also highly bio-luminescent, meaning that it glows in the dark. It is reckoned that this glowing behaviour may help attract large animals towards it which may then surprisingly be attacked by the tiny cookie-cutter.



This broadbill swordfish with what look to be two distinctive cookie-cutter bite marks in the right hand side was recently landed in Lakes Entrance, Victoria by a recreational fisher.  SETFIA members do also occasionally also come across evidence of the bite marks from these wicked little sharks on large fishes they catch.

Broadbill swordfish landed Lakes Entrance June 16 with cookie cutter bite







For more information watch BBC’s video on Cookie-cutter sharks on YouTube.

New Industry Liaison Officer

20th July 2016

Danait Ghebrezgabhier has been appointed as the new AFMA-SETFIA Liaison Officer.

Her arrival follows Andrew Trappett’s departure after a successful 15 month tenure.

Danait has worked at AFMA since 2009, has come from a zoology background and has experience working in compliance planning, research administration and several fisheries.  She is currently studying towards a Masters of Applied Science in Fisheries Management with the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania.

Under the arrangement, Danait remains an AFMA employee but will be working closely with SETFIA on projects including the roll out of stronger seabird mitigation strategies and electronic logbooks, delivering eLearning training modules and will help with communications.

While in Lakes Entrance, Danait is looking forward to working closely with industry and learning more about what makes them tick.  She may even pick up a tick or two about catching fish along the way.

This position will continue to provide another point of liaison between the trawl sector and AFMA.  Danait can be contacted by email on Please give her a warm welcome to Lakes.

Lost buoy finds its way home

17th June 2016

SETFIA member Wayne Cheers  was recently out seining for flathead 50 kilometers east of Lakes Entrance (Victoria) and was stumped when his gear tangled with a strange plastic yellow device floating freely on the surface . Wayne retrieved the barnacle encrusted plastic cone and set out to find why a black cylinder attached to it was beeping with a flashing red light.

After some investigation, a few Facebook posts and a fair few phone calls, it turns out the buoy is owned by the NSW Department of Primary Industries NSW and is (or was) part of a Fish Aggregating Device, or FAD. The FAD also includes a listening device that can detect signals from tagged fish like marlin, white sharks, mahi mahi  and kingfish and a GPS tracking device.

This particular FAD broke free from it’s mooring off Jervis Bay (NSW) in December last year, so it was drifting for quite some time before being found again.  DPI report that this is not  uncommon and that buoys normally eventually wash up on beaches.  SETFIA have trucked the device back to DPI in Sydney who were very pleased to have it return home for re-deployment.  Wayne even scored a free t-shirt for his trouble!

SETFIA has previously worked with NSW DPI’s FAD program to identify locations where trawlers cannot work like rough ground or wrecks so that FADs, and the recreational fishermen they attract, are safe from trawlers.

More information about the NSW DPI FAD program is available here or by contacting Nathan McNamara on 0439-436678.





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Electric Torpedo Ray – Fish of the Day

15th April 2016

Today’s fish is known to pack a shocking surprise – the Short-tail Torpedo Ray (Torpedo macneilli).

The Short-tail Torpedo Ray has rows of modified muscle cells, known as electocytes, throughout its disc. These cells act like miniature batteries and are capable of releasing a series of shocks equivalent in voltage to four car batteries.

There are reports of fisherman being thrown several feet after touching large specimens of this ray. This remarkable mechanism is used to stun its prey of small fish and may also function in protecting the ray from predators such as sharks. Check out this video of the ray in action hunting.

This specimen was recently captured by a trawler working off the Victorian coast and was ‘carefully’ released alive.


A 60 cm long Short-tail Torpedo Ray trawled during the NORFANZ expedition at a depth between 587 m and 700 m on the Lord Howe Rise north of Lord Howe Island, New South Wales, May 2003 (CSIRO H6030-12).



Porcupine Pufferfish – Fish of the Day

15th April 2016

Today’s fish is a prickly customer – the Porcupine Pufferfish.

The slow swimming porcupine fish  has the ability to inflate its body by swallowing water – making its body rounder. This increase in size reduces the range of potential predators that can swallow it to only those with much bigger mouths. A second defense mechanism is also provided by the sharp spines, which radiate outwards when the fish is inflated. Additionally, the flesh of most pufferfish is also toxic. See how these defense mechanisms work to outwit a moray eel in this Nat Geo video.

Porcupinefish are sometimes caught as bycatch in the South East Trawl. Today’s specimen was recently trawled up off the coast of Victoria.


Fish of the Day – Lightfish

16th March 2016

Our Fish of the Day was spat out of the mouth of a gemfish caught by one of our members from 400 metre deep water off the coast of Victoria.

Lightfish (of the family Phosicthyidae) are small, common, mid-water fishes of the deep sea. They are highly bioluminescent, meaning they glow-in-the-dark and have a row of lights (called photopores by scientists) along their belly. These lights have a faint blue glow that acts to cancel out their silhouette when viewed from below against the faint blue light of the sun filtering down through the water.  This counter-illumination acts as a form of stealth camouflage and makes it harder for predators to see them.



This species (tentatively identified as Phosichthys argenteushas a large red light in front of its gills (see pics below) that is used to attract prey – primarily krill – to the vicinity of their ample mouth and needle sharp teeth.







US tightens laws on “forced labour” seafood

16th March 2016

US President Barack Obama may soon consider a bill that would ban the importation of products linked to forced labour, which could include seafood from Thailand.

The U.S. Tariff Act (1930) already gives customs officials the authority to reject and block imports of products suspected to be produced with slave labour. However, the law contains a provision that allows goods made by children, prisoners or slaves to be imported if consumer demand cannot be met without them, the AP said.  The pending bill would cancel that exemption.

The measure could have far-reaching implications for Thai seafood imports as allegations of human trafficking and slave labour have dogged the country’s industry for years.  The US State Department downgraded Thailand’s ranking on its Trafficking in Persons report.

Australia lags behind the world with the labelling of seafood which ready to eat seafood being exempt from country of origin rules.  SETFIA has lobbied for ready to eat seafood to be labelled in the same way as raw seafood.  Supermarkets already do an excellent job (pictured) of labelling seafood which allows consumers to make informed decisions about work conditions, sustainability and food safety.

Fish of the Day – Endo’s Goosefish

11th February 2016

Check out this interesting fish recently caught by one of our trawlers working off the Victorian coast. Looking like the devil himself, this is Endo’s Goosefish (Lophiodes endoi, also known by some people as monkfish) which is a deepwater member of the anglerfish family of fishes. Growing to 38cm, this species can be found around the South-eastern and western margins of Australia’s continental shelf in waters ranging from 275-500m deep.

Like all anglerfishes, Endo’s Goosefish uses a specially adapted dorsal fin ray (known as an esca by scientists) as a fishing rod to lure smaller, inquisitive prey near to its gruesome mouth. You can guess what happens next. Watch this amazing video of a similar species in action:

Angler fishes possess some of the most impressive teeth in the animal kingdom; they ensure that once prey enters their mouths, there is no chance of escape. Check out our pics of this cool beast:

Photo credits: Andrew Trappett

What do Melbourne’s Best Fish & Chip Shops Have in Common?

11th February 2016

Melbourne’s Australian Seafood Fish and Chippery has taken out top spot in The Age’s Goodfood Best Fish and Chips 2016.  This doesn’t come as a surprise because they made the top 10 in the Herald Sun in January last year.  Social media seems to agree with perfect 5/5 Facebook reviews, 5/5 from Trip Advisor and even a 4.3/5 from the tough Urban Spoon.

Owner of the Australian Fish and Chippery Con Patsaotis came out in the Herald Sun last year calling for country of origin labelling of fresh fish stating, “We have been labelling the fish for a number of years. I believe that people should know what they’re eating and what they’re paying for and it will be good for the local fishermen as well”.

In an interview with Con he told SETFIA that off the back of this win that he was opening a second shop nearby.  He explained that gummy shark was his biggest seller but that they also sold blue grenadier and tiger flathead from the trawl fishery.  He added that he was concerned about the closure of Port Phillip Bay to commercial fishing and that it would affect his supply of king George whiting but that the public would be more affected because it was taking food off their plate.  In 2015 Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford announced the closure of that fishery in favour of the expanding Victorian recreational fishery.

The best thing about Goodfood’s Top 10 is that all ten only sell Australian fish.  It seems there is no substitute for fresh local seafood.

Charities ranked for reputation

11th January 2016

The Charity Reputation Index is produced each year by research consultants AMR, which also produces the annual Corporate Reputation Index, Country Reputation Index and City Reputation Index.  The Charity Reputation Index collates insight directly from consumers, and does not rely on any information provided by the organisations being studied.  The list of the Top 40 Australian charities studied in the Charity Reputation Index is compiled by AMR.  Organisations are excluded if they are not national, or only have a regional presence.  The Charity Reputation Index also measures how Australians feel about each of the charities according to seven parameters; Services, Innovation, Workplace, Citizenship, Governance, Leadership and Cost Management.   For the 2015 index 4,441 people were surveyed in November.

The Royal Flying Doctors Service has the strongest reputation – for the fifth year running.  Guide Dogs also maintained its strong reputation, coming in second place for the second year running. Other charities to fare well include the Fred Hollows Foundation which climbed two places to rank third, Beyond Blue fourth and Medecins Sans Frontières Australia fifth.

WWF has broken into the Top 20, rising from 23rd last year to rank 18th overall this year. It is the first time an environmentally-focused charity has ranked in the Top 20 in the index’s history.

Other eNGO’s did not fare as well with the Australian Conservation Foundation taking out 25th, the Wilderness Society 32nd and Greenpeace (Australia Pacific) placing last (40th) for the third year running.