This proposal represents an attempt to develop alternative technologies that would allow the prawn trawl industry to meet present and future strict environmental standards at a reduced operating cost. The proposal is not without risk, but reflects a genuine need to consider alternative fishing approaches outside the current thought envelope. If successful it would allow the industry to claim high environmental standards, meeting or exceeding the community expectations.
Alternatives to established fishery harvest methods are essential to meet ecologically sustainable development (ESD) requirements as dictated by international (UN) and national legislation (both federal and state) covering the marine environment. In recent years drift nets have been banned in many areas due to their detrimental impacts on non-targeted species and ecosystem structure. Similarly, ground trawling has been identified as a harvest technology that requires either restriction or banning due to its putative detrimental impacts on benthic ecosystems and disruption to food webs. Whereas drift net has been largely replaced by the sustainable and targeted method of hook and line harvesting, there are few alternatives to ground trawling.
Traps are used extensively for the harvesting of crustacea. Suitably designed pot traps can result in a minimum of by-catch and target individuals of specific size classes. However, pot trap fisheries utilise food as bait by which to attract the targeted species into the trap. Baited traps and pots are used for the commercial harvesting of pandalid prawns in the east Pacific and North Atlantic, where average catch/vessel/day of fishing effort is 80-110 kg. A smaller pot fishery exists for penaeid prawns in various parts of the Pacific basin and the Caribbean. However, attempts to date to develop a large pot trap fishery based on food bait for penaeid prawns have been largely unsuccessful.
It is proposed that chemical attractants, and not food bait, be examined as a means to harvest penaeid prawns in pots. The development of alternative harvest methods could form a non-trawl fishery with minimum by-catch, open up new areas to harvesting which are unsuitable for trawling, and produce a less stressful method to collect broodstock P. monodon prawns for the aquaculture sector as well as have spin-off potential for the development of pot trap fisheries for other species of crustacea.