Back to FISH Vol 29 4
PUBLISHED 30 Nov 2021

No ghosts in the NSW Rock Lobster Fishery 


This project addressed the issue of ghost gear in the NSW Rock Lobster Fishery by investigating two possible solutions. The first approach studied the addition of sacrificial panels to the trap. These would corrode faster than the rest of the trap, allowing caught lobsters to escape sooner. While this solution did release lobsters earlier, the substantial variation between locations in the speed of corrosion and consequent breakdown time of sacrificial panels severely limits the potential for implementing a standard design of sacrificial panel across the fishery. Researchers also investigated the use of the ARC-1XD acoustic release system from Desert Star Systems (USA) to minimise the loss of traps in the first place, thereby minimising ghost fishing. Testing of this technology over six months in commercial fishing settings resulted in no loss of traps. The businesses that assisted with the trials immediately purchased the technology and further FRDC-funded work has begun to facilitate industry uptake. The acoustic release system has since been successfully adopted by several fishing businesses operating in the NSW lobster fishery.

More information: Geoff Liggins,

Managing whaler sharks in NSW


Identification of shark species has historically been problematic with many species lumped into similar groups in historical catch logbooks, making management decisions difficult. A combination of novel genetic techniques, extensive field work and numerical modelling was undertaken during this FRDC Shark Futures project. This allowed the development of an innovative way of bringing together genetic and demographic data for estimating population size and modelling sustainable catch levels. The project indicates that a large shark fishery, particularly for sandbar sharks, is feasible. The approaches employed allowed the compilation of a diverse and unique set of data that will provide fisheries managers with options on how to maintain a sustainable large shark fishery with reduced impact on non-target species, including threatened, endangered and protected species.

More information: Vic Peddemors,

Baselines for northern coral biomass


Australia’s aquarium fisheries are high value (>$20 million), small-scale fisheries that are critically reliant on continued exports of corals listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). However, widespread and accelerating degradation of coral reef ecosystems is leading to considerable public and political scrutiny about the sustainability of ongoing coral harvesting. This project shows there is substantial standing biomass of select coral species in areas with highly concentrated and sustained harvesting pressure, especially compared to the current harvest limits and reported levels of harvesting. Simply comparing the total biomass of harvested species versus standing biomass in major fishing areas does not, however, accurately represent potential fisheries impacts, as corals are harvested selectively for colour, shape and other desirable characteristics, and the consequences of selective targeting on the population structure is unknown. This study of Australian coral fisheries has provided new data on the distribution, abundance, biology and vulnerability of major target species. It greatly increases confidence in assessing the risk posed by commercial harvesting of corals, contributing to long-term sustainability and viability of these important, intensive and highly selective fisheries.

More information: Morgan Pratchett,

Harvest strategies for multi-sector fisheries


This project focused primarily on developing a method for incorporating ‘triple bottom line’ (TBL) objectives into harvest strategies for multi-sector fisheries. TBL incorporates a range of environmental, economic and social objectives, as well as a fourth pillar relating to institutional objectives. Multi-sector fisheries include the commercial, Indigenous and recreational sectors. Using the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery (CRFFF) as a case study, two approaches were tested to operationalise TBL harvest strategies. The project worked with the CRFFF Working Group and fishery stakeholders to elicit and weight TBL objectives and develop harvest strategy options, including environmental aspects affecting the fishery, such as cyclones and the chronic effects of climate change. The first approach was a semi-quantitative expert judgement process that applied multi-criteria decision analysis. The second was a data-hungry, novel simulation approach that optimised a total allowable catch across the suite of TBL objectives, as well as over the range of stakeholder group preferences (weightings). Both approaches were able to operationalise TBL harvest strategies, although the former is not defensible quantitatively, and the latter makes many assumptions and is not ready for implementation. The project developed a general method summarising key learnings in a practical stepwise process to assist managers with future approaches to TBL harvest strategy development.

More information: Natalie Dowling,

Managing seals in the Coorong fishery


This project trialled a range of strategies to mitigate the effects of catch depredation and gear damage caused by Long-Nosed Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) in the South Australian Lakes and Coorong Fishery. These included using crackers to deter seals from approaching gill nets and using fyke nets and mechanical or manual-hauling nets as alternatives to the gill nets currently used. Crackers proved effective approximately 85 per cent of the time, and fishery management changes have been made to allow their use. Fyke nets proved relatively easy to use but failed to land any significant catch. The hauling nets were made ineffective by the local fishing conditions, including snags and turbid water that limited the ability to locate target species when deploying the nets.

More information: Jason Earl,

Spatial dynamics of tuna and billfish


This project informs the management of fish stocks at the national level for Albacore (Thunnus alalunga), Bigeye (T. obesus) and Yellowfin (T. albacares) tunas, Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) and Striped Marlin (Kajikia audax), which are part of a wider population shared by many fisheries that is managed by an international fisheries management organisation. Application of harvest strategies, required under Australia’s Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy, to the tuna and billfish species caught in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF) has been problematic. Uncertainty about the spatial connectivity of these species with the western Pacific Ocean is a key parameter affecting the performance of the current management approach. The work was conducted from 2016 to 2020 and involved employing next-generation genomic methods and cutting-edge modelling approaches to investigate the connectivity of the target species caught in the ETBF with the broader western and central Pacific Ocean. Results support current assessment structures in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission area and provide confidence that Australian management is aligned with regional management measures. The project also identifies what is needed to further reduce uncertainties in population structure relevant to harvest strategies and management frameworks for the ETBF.

More information: Karen Evans,

Guide to climate adaptations


The project team made up of CSIRO scientists, university researchers and fisheries managers assessed climate-associated risk to the ecological resources of Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries and the capacity of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to meet its policy and legislative objectives. The project team then worked with industry and other stakeholder groups to develop and trial a risk assessment-based way of identifying potential adaptation strategies for Australian Commonwealth fisheries. A handbook (and associated assessment tool) acts as a guide for future evaluations, stepping interested stakeholders, industry members and managers through a structured process to rate risks and identify adaptation options, relating to both fishery operations and management actions. This project found the existing Commonwealth fisheries management framework has many vulnerabilities with respect to climate impacts and has many potential points of failure with respect to pursuing policy and legislated objectives and international obligations. Adaptive responses will be required to cope with the multifaceted impacts climate change is having and is anticipated to have on Australian marine ecosystems. The outcomes of this project can support AFMA’s (and industry’s) short to medium-term adaptation responses (out to 2025–30).

More information: Ryan Murphy,

Oxygen dynamics in Macquarie Harbour


This report provides an update on the status of dissolved oxygen (DO) and benthic conditions in Macquarie Harbour. It follows on from the results reported in the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) reports released in January, May and September 2017, which described a deterioration of benthic and water column conditions in Macquarie Harbour in spring 2016 and some early signs of faunal recovery observed in May 2017. This report presents the results and preliminary interpretation of DO monitoring data up until the beginning of January 2018 and a repeat survey of benthic communities in October 2017.

More information: Jeff Ross,

Saucer scallop mortality in Queensland


This research was undertaken on the Ballot’s Saucer Scallop (Ylistrum balloti) fishery in south-east Queensland, which is an important component of the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (QECOTF). It was a collaboration between the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, James Cook University (JCU) and the Centre for Applications in Natural Resource Mathematics (CARM), University of Queensland. Research focused on an annual fishery-independent trawl survey of scallop abundance, relationships between scallop abundance and physical properties of the seafloor, and deriving an updated estimate of the scallop’s natural mortality rate. The scallop fishery was once one of the state’s most valued, estimated to be worth $30 million in 1992. Stock has declined in recent years and the fishery is currently considered to be overfished. Results from the project combined with long-term commercial catch and effort logbook data show a significant decline in the scallop population throughout the main area in which it is fished, and an increase in the most southern extent of the fishery. The towed-camera pilot study results indicate scallop density and total abundance estimates could be improved by incorporating a towed-camera system in the survey, as the imagery detects more scallops than are detected by trawls, and therefore provides more accurate abundance estimates. Results from the study are being used to improve monitoring, stock assessment and management advice for the fishery.

More information: Tony Courtney,

Marine microplastics in Australian seafood


A team of researchers led by the University of Adelaide investigated microplastics in Australian fish and invertebrates collected from seafood processors in capital cities of all coastal states and territories. They found about 44 per cent of the approximately 1800 fish and invertebrates examined contained microplastics. The average number of microplastics per organism was low at around one piece. This study represents the first Australia-wide assessment of microplastics across a broad range of species. Microplastic loads in Australian finfish and invertebrates were low in comparison to many international studies.

More information: Bronwyn Gillanders,

Maintaining the Fish Names Standard


This project focused on the ongoing development and maintenance of the Australian Fish Names Standard (AS 5300-2019), which was initiated by Seafood Services Australia in 1999, and continued with funding support from the FRDC in 2013. The operating procedures of the Fish Names Committee have continued to improve, and proposed amendments have been rigorously evaluated. The list of approved names in the Australian Fish Names Standard has continued to expand to meet stakeholder needs through harmonising with the Status of Australian Fish Stocks (SAFS) Reports and adding commercially important invertebrate species. An extension to the project was approved for the period from 1 October 2020 to 30 June 2021. This extension included a six-month period to develop the Australian Standard for Aquatic Plant Names (AS 5301-2020).

More information: Meaghan Dodd,

Data on Indigenous use of marine resources


Through two national workshops, Indigenous community and agency representatives and researchers discussed issues around collection, sharing and ownership of Indigenous fishing data. Challenges and opportunities were shared from all perspectives. Expertise, knowledge and information came together to enable the development of a framework for improved data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fisheries resource use. Sharing these data, which incorporate catch-related information and Indigenous knowledge, should improve understanding of the needs (cultural, social and economic) of Indigenous communities and resource managers. This framework and the ongoing development of data collection methods aim to facilitate the sharing of Indigenous fishing data and ensure a more holistic and collaborative approach to fisheries resource management.

More information: Rural Solutions SA,

Non-market values audit in fisheries and aquaculture


Effective management of marine resources requires the inclusion of both negative and positive impacts of fishing and aquaculture on the wider ecosystem and community. Not all these costs or benefits have an explicit market value, so non-market valuation is required to derive an appropriate equivalent monetary value. This project examined the issues around non-market values requirements and identified potential sources of robust and defensible estimates of key values. The project identified 13 types of non-market values that fisheries and aquaculture managers considered potentially important in their decision-making. These include fisher satisfaction; values to Indigenous Australian fishers; the value of fish and experience to recreational fishers; and the impact on habitats, species and local communities. The project identified a need for increased education about the types and uses of economics data for fisheries and aquaculture managers. In particular, it recommends examining how existing and future recreational fishing data can be adapted to provide estimates of value, and how values can be derived for high-prority impacts including bycatch and habitat damage.

More information: Louisa Coglan,

Fisheries stock assessment toolbox


Stock assessment scientists from CSIRO and Cathy Dichmont Consulting designed a web-based tool that collated freely available stock assessment packages. The final product is a website (Stock Assessment Toolbox) that collates available stock assessment packages to give assessment analysts a single platform that summarises the features of currently available packages in a consistent manner. Also highlighted are current state-of-the-art packages and those that are no longer supported or have been superseded. In addition, the website helps users of packages to give feedback to developers about which features of other packages could be included in future versions. This will support the design of the next-generation stock assessment packages.

More information: Cathy Dichmont,

Seafood demand and price analysis


This project is a collaboration involving economists from CSIRO, Central Queensland University and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES). It is the first detailed analysis of the interrelationship of fish prices in the Sydney and Melbourne fish markets. The study established that the Sydney and Melbourne markets are highly integrated, with prices of individual species moving together. Demand modelling results indicate prices of individual key fish species are sensitive to changes in the quantities landed, but less sensitive to changes in the quantities supplied of other fish species. It also found the increased production of farmed salmon in Australia has had a substantial negative impact on the prices received for salmon in the Sydney Fish Market, more so than the impact of imports. The results demonstrate the importance of considering price–quantity interactions in a total allowable catch (TAC) setting. Managers and industry may wish to consider greater use of bioeconomic models to support TAC setting. In the absence of a bioeconomic modelling framework, price impacts could be taken into account when considering changing target catch levels. Long-term decisions for the fisheries could also explicitly consider the future price environment given likely changes in imports and domestic salmon production. Consideration could also be given to increased research into assessing price flexibilities in fisheries not previously assessed.

More information: Sean Pascoe,

Southern Bluefin Tuna forecasts


This project was a collaboration between CSIRO, the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASBTIA) and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Building on FRDC project 2012-239, its key goal was to provide industry with habitat preference forecasts for Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) in the Great Australian Bight, based on the new seasonal climate forecasting model and updated preference models. With a greater-than-expected volume of data available from new archival tags, researchers developed age-specific models with age classes of three to four years of particular interest to industry for its farming operations. The website that was developed as part of the original project to help industry members plan their operations was revised significantly to deliver the new age-specific habitat forecasts, as well as to accommodate requests for additional material. The revised website is being used in the 2020–21 fishing season and has been well received.

More information: J. Paige Eveson,

Seismic survey impacts on Southern Rock Lobster larvae


This project was undertaken by the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology. It characterises the impacts of seismic surveys on puerulus and juvenile Southern Rock Lobster (SRL, Jasus edwardsii). Researchers assessed mortality rates, impairment of the righting reflex and development through the moult cycle following exposure. Key findings and implications include that exposure did not result in any elevated mortality for puerulus or juveniles, but it impaired righting at a distance of at least 500 metres (the study’s maximum range) in SRL sampled immediately following exposure. Impairment resulting from close-range exposure appeared persistent, whereas lobsters exposed at a more distant range showed recovery. This indicates a range of 500 metres may not cause lasting impairment to righting. Intermoult duration was significantly increased in juveniles closer to the exposure site (E0) and appeared to be increased in E0 puerulus, indicating the potential for slowed development and growth, and physiological stress.

More information: Jayson Semmens,

Support for owner-operated fishing businesses


Southern Rock Lobster (Jasus edwardsii) fishers have expressed concerns about trends in ownership of the fishery, including issues such as the concentration of ownership, foreign ownership and loss of regional economic benefits. A workshop hosted by Southern Rocklobster Limited was held in Melbourne in October 2019 to give industry stakeholders, managers and investors the opportunity to discuss the current industry structure and determine any paths of action. The workshop reviewed options to deliver objectives and fishery community goals. These options ranged from legislative and regulatory instruments to voluntary local agreements. Assessment of these goals could constitute further work in this area.

More information: Thomas Cosentino,


Interested in an FRDC final report?
For a copy of an FRDC project final report go to the FRDC website, contact the FRDC on 02 6122 2100, or email