Project number: 2003-013
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $230,120.00
Principal Investigator: Carolyn M. Robins
Organisation: Belldi Consultancy Pty Ltd
Project start/end date: 29 Jun 2003 - 15 Nov 2007


There is a pressing need for the issue of turtle bycatch in Australian longline fisheries to be addressed with the impetus coming from conservation and fisheries agreements. There have been many resolutions issued by expert-based bodies calling for a worldwide reduction in turtle captures by longlines. Requirements to protect marine species under the EPBC Act will impose high standards upon fishing activities in Australian waters and increased attention to the need for better data collection and bycatch management has been witnessed in the Bycatch Action Plans. The Australian Sea Turtle Recovery Plan also documents the importance of addressing sea turtle bycatch issues by commercial fisheries.

There is an economic incentive to minimise sea turtle bycatch. Evidence suggests that the ETBF and SWTBF may have what U.S. authorities consider a significant take of turtles. Following a range of restrictions placed on U.S. domestic longliners, including fishery closures, there have been calls for the extension of their domestic law to other nations. Australia’s ability to preempt or respond to any threat of trade action is vital in light of possible trade measures such as import embargoes.

Currently, there seems little opportunity to reduce turtle bycatch, although it may be possible to reduce mortality. Scientific research conducted onboard fishing vessels, however, may ultimately result, directly or indirectly, in providing a solution. The involvement of fishers is a public-relations and educational opportunity with respect to an increase in turtle conservation awareness. Additionally, fishers being involved will show others, such as the general public and governments, that they are interested in conservation.

This project proposes to satisfy the requirements on turtle-handling training and equipment adopted by the U.S. domestic longline fisheries. The approach will benefit the Australian pelagic longline industries by reducing the impact of their fisheries on the ecosystem and reducing the probability of negative impacts through unilateral trade actions.


1. Co-ordination of a team, primarily via email, of sea turtle scientists, industry representatives, fishery management and government officers, and NGO representatives to determine suitable research components, discuss methods that are appropriate and practical, and review results and conclusions. A team has already been assembled that includes all key scientists (Dr John Watson and Dr Sheryan Epperly, NOAA - mitigation research in the Atlantic
Dr Yonat Swimmer, Uni of Hawaii - satellite tagging and survival studies in Costa Rica and Hawaii
Dr Chris Boggs, NOAA - mitigation research in Hawaii
Dr Alan Bolton, Uni of Florida - mitigation and survival research in the Azores
Dr Colin Limpus, Qld EPA - Australian sea turtle scientist
and Dr Robert Prince, WA CALM - Australian sea turtle scientist)
NGO representatives (Nicola Beynon and Jeff Canin, HSI
Dr Nicola Markus, WWF)
relevant fishery managers and government officers(Dr Andrew McNee, AFMA
Louise Galli, AFFA) and industry representatives (Hans Jusseit, ETBF
Geoff Diver, SWTBF).
2. Attendance of as many fishers as possible from the Australian pelagic longline fleets, at sea turtle workshops. These workshops will cover sea turtle conservation awareness, sea turtle handling and also correct logbook data collection. The objective of the workshops is to provide fishers with the incentives and the knowledge to reduce sea turtle mortality as a result of their fishing operations.
3. Production of a video outlining sea turtle conservation awareness, sea turtle handling procedures and logbook data collection guidelines. This video will be provided to fishers at workshops and distributed by mail and by hand to all Australian longline vessels. The video will cover all the information from the workshops so fishers can review the techniques and also teach new crew correct procedures.
4. Conduct mitigation research by trained volunteer fishers during regular fishing operations with the objective of possibly indicating ways to reduce the catch of sea turtles. This entails the completion of a specialist sea turtle logbook that records information on every sea turtle capture event (including hook and baiting style, depth and position of hook, design and colour of lightstick, gear configuration, time of set, environmental factors). Volunteer fishers will also be trialling gear modification suggested by US studies as possible mitigation measures (including the use of circle hooks and hook spacing on the mainline).
5. Testing a selection of dip-nets, line-cutters and de-hookers in the Australian pelagic longline fisheries and recommending approaches and/or designs most suitable for Australian longline operations.

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-646-47960-6
Author: Carolyn Robins

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