This project is needed to assess the impacts of the South Australian Sardine Fishery (SASF) on the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). The SASF is Australia’s largest volume fishery and is critical to providing a supply of feed for the ranching of southern bluefin tuna. Operational interactions between common dolphins and the SASF have been persistent since the development of the fishery. Common dolphins occasionally become encircled in purse seine nets during fishing operations, which can lead to their injury and death. Observations of high interaction rates from an initial observer program, led to the temporary closure of the fishery in 2005 while an industry Code of Practice (CoP) to reduce dolphin interactions was developed. Since then, the CoP has been reviewed and refined to increase its effectiveness in preventing dolphin interactions, and improve release procedures. An independent on-board observer program has operated in the fishery since July 2006. It collects information on dolphin interaction and mortality rates, as well as data relating to the application of the CoP, and this information is provided in annual assessment reports. Since the introduction of the CoP, dolphin encirclement and mortality rates have declined, however, concerns about the level of interactions and mortality have persisted, with industry facing sustained pressure to demonstrate that steps taken to manage and mitigate dolphin interactions represent World’s best practice, and are sustainable.
This project is needed to address Marine Stewardship Council Fishery Assessment recommendations for the SASF to collect adequate and sufficient quantitative information to assess the consequences of interactions with common dolphins on their populations. This project is needed to provide an important Australian fisheries test-case for meeting new US Government legislation, requiring nations importing seafood to demonstrate that they have a regulatory program for reducing marine mammal bycatch that are comparable in effectiveness to US standards.