Project number: 2017-065
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $197,900.00
Principal Investigator: Steve J. Kennelly
Organisation: IC Independent Consulting Pty Ltd
Project start/end date: 30 Sep 2017 - 29 Nov 2018


Despite decades developing more selective fishing gears, bycatch and discarding remain major fisheries issues throughout the world with demersal prawn trawling still considered one of the least selective fishing methods. In addition to large quantities of bycatch, demersal trawling can also disturb benthic habitats, upon which prawns and associated ecosystems depend. Not only can such disturbances affect these systems, they also contribute to the high energy needs of trawlers, reducing their fuel efficiency. Issues of bycatch and fuel efficiency are now becoming uppermost in the concerns of many stakeholders including: prawn trawl operators (who wish to reduce running costs and discard handling), environmental groups (who are concerned about ecosystem disturbance and energy use), eco-labelling agencies (whose requirements 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 and international agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)—who first coined the term Low Impact Fuel Efficient gears (LIFE) for methods that reduce bycatch whilst improving fuel efficiency. For several decades Australia’s gear technologists have been developing solutions to such issues, the end-result of which is detailed information on a broad array of technologies that can ameliorate them. It has been decided that the next phase in progressing solutions throughout Australia is to disseminate the available information to as many prawn fishers, net makers, jurisdictional scientists and managers as possible via a series of port visits and workshops. At these workshops, specific bycatch and efficiency issues for each fishery will also be identified and potential solution(s) developed, together with a timeframe for examination and an appropriate work team.


1. Review ACPF’s risk/gap matrix and undertake a preliminary analysis of the types of technologies that would be beneficial for discussion/testing in each fishery
2. Identify the best locations and times for individual port visits in WA, Qld, NT, SA, VIC and NSW
3. Do the port visits at which: (i) the latest information on bycatch reduction and fuel efficiency technologies will be presented
and (ii) particular issue(s) identified for each fishery will be discussed and various technological solutions will be outlined and considered
4. During and after these workshops, document a process for trials of appropriate technologies that arise
5. Identify any other gaps (technological, administrative, etc) that may arise during the workshops
6. Provide a final report which describes the outcomes from each workshop and consequent actions for trials in each fishery

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-9924930-8-0
Author: Steven J Kennelly
Final Report • 2019-05-01 • 1.55 MB


Prawn trawling is among the world's least selective fishing methods, the unintended consequence being large quantities of bycatch. It is also a method that can disturb benthic habitats and use large quantities of fuel—a significant running cost for many fisheries. Issues of bycatch and fuel efficiency are of significant concern to many stakeholders including prawn trawl operators, environmental groups, eco-labelling agencies and the general public.
For several decades, Australian gear technologists have been developing solutions to bycatch issues in prawn-trawl fisheries and, most recently, significant work has also occurred in designing prawn trawls that are more fuel efficient, reduce bycatch and/or have reduced benthic impacts (FRDC project 2011/010). The end-result of all this work is detailed information on a broad array of technologies that can ameliorate such problems. It was decided by the FRDC and ACPF that the next phase in progressing such solutions throughout Australia was to disseminate the available information to as many prawn fishers, net makers, jurisdictional scientists and managers as possible. Following an initial workshop of representatives from various fisheries around Australia (FRDC 2016/057), it was decided to extend the information to as many individual fisheries as possible so that they can be considered, trialled, modified, etc. to achieve optimal performance in each situation. The workshop therefore recommended the organisation of a “Prawn trawl roadshow”, using the expertise of Australia’s fishing gear technologists to explain and discuss these concepts with fishers in each fishery. The intention was that then, local fishers and jurisdictions would consider the various options and adopt them for trial/use in their own fisheries, leaning on the expertise of relevant gear technologists.
Following an initial examination of a risk/gap matrix developed by ACPF, a series of 12 workshops were held at some of the key prawn-trawl ports in Australia. These were in Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Hervey Bay, Brisbane, Carnarvon, Yamba, Coffs Harbour, Newcastle, Adelaide, Port Lincoln and Lakes Entrance. At each, the PI and a fishing gear technologist gave presentations that summarized the information currently available on how to reduce bycatch, habitat-impacts and fuel use that have been developed in Australia and other countries, as well as recent work being done in Europe due to the implementation of its Discard Ban. During these workshops and subsequent discussions at wharves, on boats, etc., various priority issues and potential solutions were identified for future examination.
The project resulted in a very significant increase in the number of stakeholders (particularly trawl skippers and crews) being made aware of the latest ways that bycatch and habitat impacts can be reduced while concomitantly increasing fuel efficiency. One-hundred-and-forty-six people participated in the workshops and/or on boats, at wharves, etc. (comprising120 fishers, 18 executive officers/facilitators, five fisheries managers, two scientists and one representative from Oceanwatch). As a result, this extension project has been able to reach a significant proportion of the total number of prawn trawl stakeholders in the country. In addition, the material presented has been made available as a stand-alone presentation with associated videos (at so that anyone else interested in this work can obtain the information disseminated.
The workshops were successful in identifying the specific (and varied) issues each fleet has with bycatch and habitat-impact reduction and fuel-efficiency. Many of these issues and future work are specific to each fishery and should therefore form the focus of future industry and or scientifically based work in each. However, there were several issues that were common to more than one fishery and sometimes several. These more generic issues included:
  • More streamlined permit-approval processes for fishers to trial modifications;
  • A system where fishers could be trained in the use of, and get access to, FRDC’s Notus
    portable acoustic net measurement sensors and load cells;
  • Examine the utility of LED lights and other anterior modifications to elicit behavioural
    responses and reduce bycatch;
  • Test the recently developed fisheyes (Kon’s and the FishX 70) against the square mesh
    panel to reduce bycatch of small fish;
  • Check and assess knot orientation to reduce bycatches and improve fuel efficiency;
  • Designing retroactive modifications to otter boards that facilitate variations from approx.
    350 when deploying to the critical 200 when fishing to reduce drag and fuel consumption;
  • Examine anterior modifications to reduce sawfish bycatch including electromagnetic
    stimuli and/or LED lights;
  • Using round/oval TEDs instead of rectangular TEDs; and
  • Examine soft brush ground gear to reduce benthic impacts and drag.
The net result of all this work is a concrete set of agreed issues and potential solutions for each fleet that can be used by fishers, scientists, managers and funding agencies to conduct formal trials of modifications to deal with such issues in their prawn-trawl fleets. Fleet-wide reductions in bycatch, habitat impacts and drag will eventually produce low impact, fuel efficient (LIFE) Australian prawn-trawl fisheries over the next few years

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