Little is known about the life history of the endangered Maugean skate but it does appear to have a very restricted distributional range (Macquarie and Bathurst Harbours, the latter a marine protected area) and in all likelihood a small population size.
The expansion of marine farming in Macquarie Harbour represents a key element of the salmonid industry’s plan to significantly increase Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout production in Tasmania. In considering the planning application, the MFPRP identified that research is required to more properly understand the ecological effects of the proposed farming operations, including potential impacts on the Maugean skate. Key research priorities identified by the MFPRP were the need to describe distribution, abundance and general ecology of the species, such information being a precursor to determining the nature of interactions with marine farming operations. Furthermore, the Panel noted the need to better understand the potential effects on the Maugean skate of efforts to recover escapees through fish-down using gillnets. This concern links to the more general population risk posed by gillnetting, noting that skate are taken incidentally in commercial and recreational gillnets and that gillnetting activity is strongly associated with targeting of escapees.
By employing acoustic tracking and non-destructive biological sampling techniques, this project will provide the science to understand the nature of interactions between fishing and aquaculture activities and the Maugean skate as well as enhancing our knowledge about its conservation status. Through such understanding it will be possible to evaluate risk and develop strategies to manage interactions and, where necessary, implement measures to mitigate negative impacts on the skate.
This proposal addresses RD&E priorities relevant to understanding the impacts of aquaculture due to expansion as well as mitigating the impacts of fishing on threatened, endangered and protected species.