Sub-Antarctic fishery pristine after 16 years of trawling

29th July 2014

The Heard and McDonald Island (HIMI) Patagonian Toothfish and Mackerel Icefish fishery is located in the Southern Ocean 3,000 miles south-west from the Australian mainland. An eight year FRDC study has shown that after 16 years of trawling and five years of longlining that 98% of sensitive sea floor biodiversity remains in pristine condition. The study was funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and was a joint project between the Australian Antarctic Division, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and fishing industry partners Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline (both of whom are SETFIA members). The research also found that the majority of vulnerable organisms live on the sea floor at depths less than 1,200 metres. This habitat overlaps with trawl fishing to depths of 1,000 metres, and to a lesser extent longline fishing.

Images of the HIMI seafloor can be found here.

There is a 65,000km2 Marine Reserve in the HIMI area. The location of this reserve was a collaborative effort between the fishing industry and the Commonwealth Environment Department and has been in place since 2002.

This result shows that well placed marine protected areas can bring about strong conservation outcomes while allowing sustainable fishing.

The South East Marine Reserve Network consists of 14 different marine reserves and covers most of the South East Trawl Fishery. It too was a collaborative effort between Government and industry. The 388,000km2 South East Network is far larger than the HIMI reserve and is in fact the largest deepwater marine protected area in the world. There are many other fisheries closures in the South East Fishery and combined with Marine Parks means that 87% of the fishery is closed to trawling.