Assessing the trawling footprint of Australian fisheries

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THE first national picture of the footprint of bottom trawling on Australia’s seabed habitats has just been released.

Overall, less than 3.5% of the Australian seabed was found to be affected by trawling in recent years, according to an article on the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation's website. Although this figure varies regionally, it is among the lowest footprints recorded worldwide.

The work, conducted by CSIRO and funded by FRDC, provides a map of which seabed habitats are not exposed at all to trawling, but also those that are the most exposed and are the highest priorities for future detailed risk assessment studies.

Some of the areas identified as highest priorities for risk assessment are the Australian east coast from southern Queensland including deep areas of the southern Great Barrier Reef, through shelf areas of NSW, to eastern Victoria/Bass Strait — as well as western Tasmania to SE South Australia near the shelf break, in Shark Bay, and the outer Great Australian Bight.

“Some eco-regions in these areas have high trawl footprints (between 30% and 65% trawled) and typically have low protection (such as in fishery closures and/or marine reserves), and will need to be assessed first”, says CSIRO’s Dr Roland Pitcher who led the research.

“To date, ecological risk assessments for Australian trawl fisheries have largely focussed on evaluating which bycatch species are at high risk. However, research has also shown that fishing gear towed along the bottom of the sea can impact seabed habitats” continues Dr Pitcher. 

“This approach will ultimately lead to outcomes that include reduction of the ecological risks posed by trawling and improved environmental sustainability” says Dr Pitcher.

You can read the full report HERE.

 

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