Trawl fleet makes 1 May baffler deadline

19th May 2017

The 2017-18 fishing season started on 1 May and the newsletter can report that all board trawl vessels made the deadline to have new and improved seabird mitigations in place.

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 the Great Australian Bight Industry Association travelled to New Zealand on a study tour.  The team of eight, short-listed devices and techniques to better protect seabirds. Two devices were prioritised; sprayers and bafflers.

As at May 1 all commercial trawl fishing vessels in these fisheries must now 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.  Trials showed that they reduced heavy interactions by 96%.  27 boats have fitted bafflers.

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.   During trials the sprayer reduced interactions by 92%.  Due to cost and complexity only one vessel is using a sprayer.

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. Only one part-time vessel is currently using this option.