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Prawn Crews Collect Critical Data

Lucy Towers
09 September 2013, at 1:00am

AUSTRALIA - Crews in the northern prawn fishery had more on their minds than how many prawns they were going to catch when they returned to the Gulf last week.

They’ve been training up to be part of a long-term scientific monitoring project to help the CSIRO and AFMA.

You might think trawler crews would have enough to worry about when they’re on the back deck.

But for Sharee Carton, on board the F.V. Gulf Bounty, being a part of the voluntary Crew Observer Program is one of the highlights of a job she loves.

“The scientists can’t get access to these animals like we can, because they would never be able to go out and collect the specimens and to get the data.

“They’ve told us they think we’ve discovered an unknown species of pipefish, because of the pipefish we’ve been collecting and reporting on – and we send the specimens back to CSIRO – plus we’re finding distribution of certain sea horses and things that were only thought to be on the east coast and now they’re finding them in the Gulf.

“So it’s really valuable information.”

The Northern Prawn Fishery Industry’s project officer, Matt Barwick, says the voluntary program is providing data that’s critical to the fishery’s sustainability, which is why boat owners are willing to pay crew incentives for “good and robust data”.

“Last year, they collected data on 3,200 trawls, so it’s an amazing volume of data and an amazing quality of data as well,” he said.

“The crew members are giving us photographic records of the interactions they find, so the researchers back in the laboratories can confirm the species and the size.

The tiger prawn season started on the 1st of August, with high expectations of better catches than in the recent banana prawn season.

For more information, please contact Matt Barwick, NPFI Projects Manager on 0422 752 789, or m.barwick@npfindustry.com.au.