There has been a global push towards reducing fisheries interactions with threatened, endangered, and protected species through fishing gear innovations and adjusting fishing practices. This has been especially apparent in North America, where gear developers have rapidly progressed alternative trap fishing technologies to address North Atlantic Right Whale entanglements and resulting legal fishery closures. In 2018, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution instituted an annual conference, the Ropeless Consortium, to promote novel fishing technologies emerging to address this problem. This conference allows gear developers to connect with industry and facilitate discussions around how their gear can be more widely adapted. Although Australian fisheries face similar whale entanglement issues with Humpback whales and Southern Right whales, representatives from Australian fisheries have yet to attend this conference. This travel bursary would allow representatives from the Australian fishing industry to gain a firsthand understanding of novel gear emerging that could help prevent interactions with whales. Ocean trap and line fishers and industry representatives from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and Tasmania will attend the Ropeless Consortium to gain insights into various ropeless/gear-on-demand technologies that have been developed to mitigate whale entanglements. In total, we envision 5 representatives from Australian fisheries to attend:
- 1 OceanWatch representative, 1 NSW fisheries representative and 2 NSW trap fishers, 1 TSIC representative. Additional potential participants include 1 Tasmanian trap fisher, 1 QSIA representative and 2 Queensland trap fishers, and 1 SIV representative and 2 South Australian trap fishers. (Priority hierarchy for trip attendees is provided as an attachment
Days prior to and following the conference, the group will meet with gear specialists and fishers who have previously trialed new technologies to help foster international relationships and build industry confidence in novel fishing techniques that may prove applicable for Australian fisheries. This trip will build connections between Australian industry and international gear developers and fishers. Although the conference is only one day, we strongly believe that bookending the conference with meetings with gear experts and fishers who have trialed the gear will greatly benefit our industry’s efforts towards reducing whale entanglement around Australia and put us on the forefront of innovative and sustainable fishing advancements. We feel that exposing key fishers directly to new gear options and fishers who have already made the switch may help alleviate resistance to adjusting fishing practices and promote new gear adoption throughout the industry.