Research undertaken in the Queensland 'hopper' pilot study and South Australia's Spencer Gulf prawn trawl fishery has suggested that the use of hoppers in prawn trawl operations can enhance the survival of bycatch species. Whilst preliminary results from both the Queensland pilot study and current research in the Spencer Gulf support these suggestions, there exists various views across Australian as to whether hoppers actually do make a positive contribution towards increasing the survival of bycatch species.
Over the last few years, the uptake of hoppers in Australian prawn trawl fisheries has increased, with many vessels in the Northern Prawn, Exmouth Gulf, Spencer Gulf and Gulf of St Vincent prawn trawl fisheries now using hoppers. In most of these fisheries the rate of adoption has been driven by the economic benefits relevant to improved product quality and increased operational efficiencies when using hoppers. However, a coordinated and cooperative review to determine and quantify the effects of hoppers has not been undertaken.
NORMAC’s Bycatch Action Plan has identified research into the effects of hoppers on bycatch survival as a ‘high priority’. The East Coast Trawl Plan also includes the need to reduce bycatch by 40% by 2005 and flags that hoppers could assist this target. SARDI have proposed that hoppers, used as part of a suite of bycatch mitigation strategies, could improve bycatch survival. NSW estuary prawn trawl operators supported the concept of hoppers and the need for further research into hoppers was identified as a 'high priority' at the Estuary Prawn Trawl MAC meeting held at NSW Fisheries in July 2002.
Both CSIRO and SARDI submitted industry-supported hopper focused research applications into their respective FRABs for this current round of FRDC funding. Both proposals included the involvement of SeaNet officers to facilitate industry involvement in documenting the current use and understanding of hopper operations and assist with the extension of information across identified target fisheries.
An independently facilitated workshop was held in September 2002 to bring together industry and research stakeholders from both Commonwealth and State prawn trawl fisheries in WA, SA, NSW and Queensland (East Coast Trawl and Torres Strait) to progress the development of a national hopper R&D framework. Outcomes from the workshop supported the need of a coordinated national project approach to be developed, with respect to future research, education and communication activities relevant to hoppers.
This project has provided an opportunity to consolidate all literature currently available on existing knowledge and technology relevant to the use/research of hoppers. It has demonstrated that there are clear gaps in the research and that it is imperative that further work be undertaken to identify and quantify the environmental benefits of hoppers for bycatch survival
The handbook is a useful resource for fishers, researchers, managers and conservationists on the use, designs and practices associated with the existing use of hoppers across Australian prawn trawl fisheries. It offers a simple and yet effective presentation of the existing mechanisms used by industry to improve operational practices and reduce environmental impacts.
This handbook aims to:
• detail the design, operation and use of hoppers (back deck water tanks/sorting devices) in trawl ﬁsheries across Australia;
• enable the sharing of industry knowledge on hoppers among ﬁshers from all Australian trawl ﬁsheries;
• provide readily accessible information to ﬁshers on the use and application of hoppers;
• facilitate the broader adoption among trawl ﬁsheries of best practice use of hoppers. In ﬁsheries where hoppers are not yet widely used but may be useful, help stimulate the development and uptake of new and suitable hopper designs; and
• provide a tool to inform and educate the general community, ﬁsheries and environmental managers about the initiatives developed and adopted by Australian trawl ﬁsheries to reduce the impacts of trawling on the aquatic environment, and to work towards achieving sustainable operating practices and improved economic eﬃciency.
This handbook is primarily a technical handbook for ﬁshers. It is also however, a useful resource for others interested in the environmental management of Australian trawl ﬁsheries.
The information presented in this handbook has been obtained through interviews and discussions with many trawl ﬁshers across Australia, hopper manufacturers and through surveys conducted with ﬁshers, researchers, ﬁshing companies and other industry bodies.