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.