New seabird protection rules come into force on 1st July for in Australia’s Commonwealth Trawl Sector. Image: AFMA

A new set of rules to further protect seabirds will apply to trawlers in Australia’s Commonwealth Trawl Sector (CTS) from 1st July 2019.

Wez Norris, CEO of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), said that this is recognised as a challenge to the industry, adding that it is great to see fishermen in the CTS exploring new technologies and strategies to support sustainable fishing practices.
‘To further reduce bird interactions, otter board trawl vessels will not be allowed to discharge offal in high risk areas while fishing gear is deployed from 1st July,’ he said.
‘This new rule adds to a suite of protective measures for seabirds in the CTS, including the required use of a seabird mitigation device, such as bird bafflers, sprayers and pinkies (with offal management), and seabird management plans for each individual vessel. Operators can apply for exemptions from the new rules if they can demonstrate offal management techniques that remove the risk for seabirds interacting with the vessel’s fishing gear,’ he said and added that to help the industry understand the new requirements for offal discharge, AFMA is undertaking port visits in the coming months to meet directly with operators, and discuss and explain changes in the 2019-20 management arrangements.
CEO of the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association, Simon Boag, said co-operation between the industry and the regulator has been pivotal in ensuring the CTS remains sustainable.
‘SETFIA and AFMA have worked in partnership for nearly 10 years to reduce interactions between trawlers and seabirds,’ he said.
He explained that seabird interactions were reduced by 75% with the introduction of pinkies – large buoys that push seabirds away from trawl warps – and further reduced interactions by 90% using bafflers and sprayers.
‘This outcome became the subject of a scientific journal article and demonstrated Australia led the world in seabird mitigation on small trawlers. To help generate more innovation for otter board trawls, SETFIA received funding from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) that will be shared across the industry, further demonstrating the industry’s commitment to sustainable fishing practices,’ he said.
‘Nonetheless, some level of interaction continues. SETFIA has always said that with regard to seabird interactions we will do whatever it takes and we are committed to the next step.’
All seabirds are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The foraging areas of some seabird species overlap with some Commonwealth fishing activity, and as such AFMA mandates the use of various devices to minimise interactions with seabirds.