College nets a global first for fishing

BYCATCH from prawn fishing on the Coffs Coast could soon be a thing of the past, with a new research project set to revolutionise the industry.

The Australian Maritime College project uses underwater lights to deter fish from prawn nets, and preliminary results have found a 30 per cent reduction in fish bycatch, a 10 per cent increase in prawn catch, and a reduction in fuel usage as a result of reduced weight in the net.

Research leader, David Maynard, said estimates of annual fish discard are 7.3 million tonnes a year, a figure that would be greatly reduced if the project went global.

“If this was adopted throughout the world, we'd make massive inroads into bycatch reduction, sustainability for non-target species and juvenile commercial species,” Mr Maynard told the Advocate.

“Potentially our method could reduce global bycatch by more than half a million tonnes per year.”

The new approach works when lights along the trawl nets trigger a flight response in fish.

“What's been done in the past is to look at ways to reduce bycatch once the fish are in the back of the net,” Mr Maynard said.

“But because of the underwater lights, fish don't enter the trawl, and the issue of post-escape mortality doesn't exist.”

Mr Maynard believes the project could also see prawn fishermen reducing their number of fishing days due to the catch increases.



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