Workshop to identify research needs and a future project to reduce bycatch and improve fuel efficiency via Low Impact Fuel Efficient (LIFE) prawn trawls

Project Number:



IC Independent Consulting Pty Ltd

Principal Investigator:

Steve J. Kennelly

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Environment, Industry


Issues of bycatch and fuel efficiency are now becoming uppermost in the concerns of many stakeholders. These include: the industry itself (which wishes to reduce running costs and discard handling), environmental groups (who are concerned about ecosystem disturbance and energy use), eco-labelling agencies (whose requirements often focus on bycatch and habitat impacts), and the general public (who dictate the “social licence to operate” for such fisheries). These issues have therefore attracted the attention of many governments as well as international agencies like the FAO who first coined the term Low Impact Fuel Efficient gears (LIFE) for methods that reduce bycatch whilst improving fuel efficiency. However, there have been only a few studies that address these issues. And one of the centres where this work has occurred is the NSW Conservation Technology Unit. In recent years, Dr Broadhurst from this group applied for FRDC funds to enhance LIFE research by focussing on the prawn fisheries in Australia. And his most recent application led to the need for this current application to hold a workshop of the relevant prawn fisheries in Australia to develop the foci, objectives and way-forward for this important research.


1. Organise and plan a workshop of key stakeholders in Australia’s prawn-trawl fisheries whose goal is to ameliorate bycatch issues and improve fuel efficiency by developing Low Impact Fuel Efficient (LIFE) gears for those fisheries

2. Hold the above workshop over 2 days in Sydney; and

3. Prepare and finalise a report outlining the conduct and results of the workshop and the staged approach recommended for ongoing research.

Final report 2016-057-DLD Workshop to identify research needs and a future project to reduce bycatch and improve fuel efficiency via Low Impact Fuel Efficient (LIFE) prawn trawls

Final Report
Author(s):Steven J Kennelly
Date Published:April 2017

​Principle Investigator: Steve Kennelly

Key words: bycatch, fuel efficiency, prawn, trawl, LIFE

Executive Summary:

This report describes the content, discussion and outcomes that arose from a workshop involving representatives of the prawn-trawl fisheries of Australia and fishing-gear experts to explore the work done so far in developing ways to reduce bycatch and discards and improve fuel efficiency in prawn trawls (both in Australia and overseas), and to identify industry’s priorities for the way forward in this field.
The workshop learned of the many and varied options that are available to prawn trawler operators to reduce bycatch and/or improve fuel efficiency. These included the many physical and behavioural-type bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) and turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) used in or near codends, as well as new work describing a host of options available in the anterior (front) section of the trawl including modifications to the spreading mechanisms (including boards and numbers of nets), net tapers, hanging ratios, twine size, knot orientation, sweeps, ground gears, etc. The workshop also learned of current initiatives occurring in this field in Europe as a result of the implementation of the Landing Obligation (or Discard Ban).
The work presented showed that there now exists an impressive array of options (or tools) in a trawl gear “toolbox” that could be applied to prawn-trawl fisheries in the country. These tools have the potential to significantly reduce bycatch, habitat impacts and/or fuel usage, depending on the particular circumstances in each fishery. The workshop concluded that these tools now require full extension into individual fisheries so that they can be trialled, appropriately modified, tuned, modified again, etc. to achieve optimal performance in each situation. That is, the various adaptations presented at this workshop need to find their way into the myriad of prawn-trawl fishing operations occurring throughout the countryso that fishers can select appropriate options, use, modify and test them (in a scientifically defensible way and with appropriate approval by their management agency) so they can be adopted for routine use where appropriate.
The workshop ultimately recommended the organisation of a “Prawn Trawl Toolbox Travelling Roadshow”, using the expertise of Australia’s expert gear technologists to explain and discuss these concepts with fishers in each fishery. Then, local fishers should take the 5 various options and adopt them for trial/use in their own situation, leaning on the expertise of our gear technologists.
With regard to developing the existing modifications further via more research, it was felt that a better strategy would be to do the above-mentioned extension roadshow first (i.e. over the next year or so) and monitor other global innovations which are developed in Europe and elsewhere as a result of the increased focus on bycatch reduction and the implementation of the European Discard Ban. This will allow us to take full advantage of the innovations occurring in the Northern Hemisphere (and consider any additional tools that are developed) at a reduced cost.