Project number: 2015-014
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $249,986.14
Principal Investigator: Matthew Campbell
Organisation: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries EcoScience Precinct
Project start/end date: 30 Jun 2015 - 29 Jun 2017


This project addresses aspects of Priority 8 of the Environment Program as outlined in the FRDC’s 2015 Competitive Round Call for Expressions of Interest. Specifically, the project will measure the improvement in bycatch reduction that has occurred in the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery and how these reductions have been achieved. Effort has decreased over time and BRDs and TEDs were mandated in the QECOTF in the early 2000’s. These and other management changes have likely led to significant decreases in the amount of bycatch generated by the QECOTF. There is a need, therefore, to quantify this decrease and extend the results to stakeholders. Further, through these results, the trawl industry is better able to demonstrate that its impact on bycatch species has significantly decreased over time, with resultant positive outcomes regarding the ecological impact of the fishery. These results will contribute directly to the assessment of the fishery for the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report process and World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) approval process.

Despite improvements in bycatch management, the sustainability of trawl bycatch species remains a significant issue for some stakeholders and the community. For example, sharks and rays exhibit low fecundity and, due to their biology, are susceptible to capture by trawls, resulting in concerns regarding their sustainability - the impact of trawling on high risk species including skates and rays was recently highlighted by an Ecological Risk Assessment conducted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Goals of fisheries management include maintaining ecosystem structure, conserving biodiversity and supporting sustainable fisheries. This applies to both target and bycatch species. To achieve the key management goals for bycatch, it is essential to estimate the fishing-induced mortality of bycatch species, particularly those identified as being at significant risk, and ensure this impact is within the species’ intrinsic capability to withstand. This project will contribute to the sustainability for bycatch species with particular focus on potentially high risk species identified in previous research.


1. Quantify the survival of elasmobranchs (i.e., sharks and rays) that are caught incidentally in Queensland prawn trawl nets and discarded
2. Quantify reductions in bycatch over the last 20-30 years in the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery and describe how these have come about e.g. fleet reduction, gear technology
3. Assess the risk that trawling poses to the sustainability of high-risk bycatch species, including elasmobranchs, from the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery

Final report

ISBN: 978 0 7345 0455 5
Author: Matthew Campbell
Final Report • 2017-11-30 • 8.34 MB


Keywords: Discards, elasmobranchs, post-trawl survival, Aptychotrema rostrata, Trygonoptera testacea, turtle excluder device, bycatch reduction device, TEDs, BRDs, ecological risk assessment, ERA
Executive Summary: Researchers from the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) have assessed aspects of the environmental impacts of Australia’s largest trawl fishery, the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (QECOTF). A suite of management measures implemented in 2001 have resulted in a reduction in discards from a peak of 87,175 tonnes in 1997 to 25,271 in 2014, or 71%. This reduction was measured using quantitative methods based on catch, fishing effort and swept area. The risk posed to elasmobranchs from trawling operations south of the Great Barrier Marine Park was also assessed using a quantitative method known as Sustainability Assessment for Fishing Effects (SAFE). Of the 47 species assessed, one, the Piked Spurdog, was found to be at high risk. A further six species were found to be at medium risk, with the remainder at low risk. These findings satisfy environmental constraints placed on the QECOTF by the Federal Government, allowing fishers to access fishing grounds within the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Fishers are also able to continue accessing lucrative overseas markets, increasing the profitability of the fishery.

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