Press Release: Southern Trawl Fleet Invest in Seabird Safe Technology

8th May 2017

8 May 2017.  For immediate release.

With the 2017-18 Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) fishing season starting last week, the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA) and the Great Australian Bight Industry Association (GABIA) are pleased to see the start of new seabird mitigation arrangements.

Following an industry led initiative, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is implementing new and stronger arrangements to protect seabirds from interactions with fishing boats. All commercial trawl fishing vessels in the SESSF must use either sprayers, bird bafflers, or pinkies (large buoys that are placed in front of where trawl warps enter the water). If pinkies are used, fishers must not dispose of any offal while fishing.

Bird Bafflers have proven to be the go-to device by the southern trawl fleet, with the majority of operators investing in and installing the device. Bafflers are designed to prevent seabirds from entering the ‘danger zone’ where trawl warps enter the water. They are made from long curtains of rope and pieces of plastic piping, which act as a fence and stop seabirds from coming near these warps.

Different to bafflers but also an effective mitigation tool, seabird sprayers create a curtain of water around the area where the warps enter the water. Sprayers are more expensive than bafflers.

Christian Pyke, Executive Officer of the Great Australian Bight Fishing Association said that,

“The southern Australian trawl fleet is the first small vessel fleet in the world to mandate the use of proven devices on all vessels and minimise risks associated with trawling and seabirds,” Mr Pyke said.

“Australia is leading the world in minimising risks between seabirds and trawl vessels.”

Simon Boag, Executive Officer of SETFIA explained that,

“All active trawl vessels have taken action to implement the new seabird arrangements with one boat opting for sprayers and 27 boats opting for bafflers,” Mr Boag said.

“This is an extremely encouraging outcome given that during trials bafflers reduced heavy interactions by 96 per cent and sprayers by 92 per cent compared to bare warps.

“We would like to thank Fishwell Consulting and AFMA’s By-catch Team for their work on this project”.

AFMA’s acting Executive Manager Fisheries, Beth Gibson, said that AFMA’s Bycatch and Discards and Trawl sections worked closely with industry leaders SETFIA and GABIA to create the new seabird mitigation devices.

“AFMA recognises the efforts from industry in raising and designing the new arrangements for managing interactions with seabirds in the SESSF,” Ms Gibson said.

“Hearing first-hand from fishers out there on the sea helped inform our decision making throughout the process, particularly in ensuring that the devices are safe for both the fishers and the birds.

“As part of the new arrangements, bafflers and sprayers must meet specifications and receive approval before use. Any vessel seeking to use the third option of pinkies with no offal discharge while fishing must prove they can do this with an AFMA observer on board. If this requirement can’t be met they will be required to use bafflers.”


Media enquiries:

SETFIA: 0428 141 591
GABIA: 0428 233 200
AFMA: 0437 869 860


Seabirds are attracted to fishing vessels by the sight and smell of fish and fish offal.  They can be injured or killed when they collide with the cables (known as warps) used to tow trawl nets.
In 2014, SETFIA received an Australian Government ‘Caring for our Country’ grant of $330,000 and with GABIA travelled to New Zealand on a study tour.  The team of eight short-listed devices and techniques to protect seabirds in the South East Trawl and Great Australian Bight Trawl Fisheries. Two devices were prioritised; sprayers and bafflers.

A Project team consisting of the AAD, CSIRO, AFMA, OceanWatch and Industry oversaw the project in which an independent observer observed interactions between a pinky and warp and one of the two new devices and warp over 124 day time fishing operations (shots).  The trial took 12 months (November 2014 to October 2015) because shots only provided data if seabirds were present.   The project was run by leading fisheries consulting firm Fishwell Consulting.

On June 30, 2016 Industry issued a press release calling on AFMA to make these devices mandatory for all trawl vessels by May 1, 2017.

A heavy interaction is any contact between a cable and a seabird that caused the seabird to vary its course.  The vast majority do not injure the seabird but it is likely that some do.

Other information:

Videos of sprayers Video 1 , Video 2

Videos of bafflers Video 3 and Video 4

Pictures of bafflers are available on the SETFIA Twitter Page.

The South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA) represents the interests of fishermen and quota owners in the South East Trawl Fishery.  The fishery runs from Barrenjoey Point, north of Sydney, through southern NSW, Vic and Tasmania to Cape Jervis in SA.  It is the largest supplier of finfish in Australia and the major supplier to the Melbourne and Sydney fish markets.

The Great Australian Bight Fishing Industry Association Inc (GABIA) is committed to ecological and economic sustainability of the Great Australian Bight Trawl Fishery. The fishery runs from Cape Jervis, South Australia to Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia.

[Photo of Southern Buller’s Albatross copyright Tamar Wells.]