OceanWatch Australia, a national not-for-profit organisation, announced the initiative, under its advancing sustainable fisheries program SeaNet, which receives funding and support from the seafood industry as well as the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country environmental grants.
The SeaNet program is a national environmental extension service that for over ten years has worked closely with commercial fishers to reduce the environmental impact of fishing in Australia, by introducing new practices and new technologies. SeaNet has introduced to the industry, in partnership with governments and other groups, new de-hooking devices, the popeye fishbox , square mesh codends, new techniques for deep setting longlines, turtle smart crab pots, all designed to improve fishing and environmental practices.
SeaNet team leader Denis Ballam said they had purchased 370 Fumunda pingers which will be distributed to selected commercial fishers in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Pingers emit a low-frequency signal that alert dolphins, dugongs and whales to the presence of commercial fishing equipment, and thereby ensure that interactions between the set fishing gear and these marine mammals are avoided”, he said.
“OceanWatch has been running the SeaNet program since 1998, with the primary aim of minimising the catch of non-target species (by-catch) and to encourage the best environmental practice for Australia’s commercial fishing sector,” Mr Ballam said.
‘With the support of the Australian Government through the Caring for Our Country grants scheme, SeaNet has been able to purchase pingers from Fumunda Marine, an Australian company based at the University of the Sunshine Coast Innovation Centre in Queensland, to extend these trials’.
“SeaNet has the support of commercial gill net fishers who are keen to adopt the latest available technology, allowing them to continue fishing in a sustainable manner,” Mr Warren said.
“Fishers tell us pingers are easy to use and reduce unwanted interactions significantly, which is not only good for the marine environment but also means a more efficient operation.” Mr Warren said.
“The challenge we face is extending the availability of pingers to all Australia’s gill net vessel operators, and to do that we will need financial support from both government and the corporate sector.” Mr Warren said.
Mr Ballam said with the global focus on protecting marine mammals it was an ideal opportunity for Government and corporate sponsors to come on board -with this program that will see us continue to be global leaders in commercial fishing best practice and marine conservation.