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Prawn Fishery's Ecological Footprint Improving

25 September 2012, at 1:00am

AUSTRALIA - Trials for a new prawn net design have resulted in the development of a unique system voluntarily adopted by the Gulf St Vincent Prawn Fishery (GSVPF) which has dramatically improved the ecological footprint of the fishery.

Minister for Fisheries, Gail Gago says the T90 prawn net has resulted in significant improvements in by-catch or unintentional catch.

The difference with this net and traditional methods is that the mesh is oriented 90 degrees to the body of the net allowing the holes to remain open during trawling.

The trials have shown that by using the T90 prawn net we can achieve reductions in catches of small prawns and fish by more than 50 per cent, with 90 per cent for sponges and 100 per cent for sharks and rays.

Fishers are benefiting from an improvement in the quality of prawns caught, reduced handling time on deck sorting the catch, and fuel savings associated with reduced drag from the nets, she said.

The success of the project has prompted Spencer Gulf prawn fishers to start trials funded by Caring for our Country next month to adapt the new technology to their fishery.

Minister Gago says success of the project was not limited to the environmental and fishery benefits.

It is also an excellent demonstration of collaborative research between Government and the fishing industry.

The project team included fishermen, specialist net makers, a SEA-NET officer expert in by-catch reduction and government.

Using underwater video technology and countless hours of fisher and net-makers time modifying nets, the research team developed the new gear in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

So impressed were fellow fishers of the GSVPF that voluntary agreement was reached by the industry to take up the technology in January 2012.

The new technology was developed in a project led by SARDI Aquatic Sciences, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and based on an idea by fisherman Jim Raptis of A Raptis and Sons. The net has been used by the fishery since March 2012.

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