1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Bycatch (or non-target catch) is the unintentional catch of a species (such as seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles) during fishing operations and is a significant environmental issue in many of the world's fisheries. The status of most bycatch species is uncertain.

Trawl fisheries, in particular, are recognised as discarding the greatest amount of bycatch compared to other commercial fishing methods. However, baited hooks on longlines set to catch tuna, can also catch seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels. Bycatch also includes fish caught by discarded fishing gear which continues to catch marine species indefinitely.

Bycatch is particularly an issue for endangered species such as sea turtles. Worldwide, there are only seven species of sea turtle and six of these live in Australian waters. In the Northern Prawn Fishery, the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) has reduced the turtle bycatch from around 5,000 captured a year prior to 2000, to a reported 120 a year in 2003 (Robins et al 2002).

Illegal fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (henceforth called illegal fishing) is considered to be one of the most serious threats to the health of the world's fisheries and oceans. Illegal fishing makes it difficult to conserve fish stocks and manage fisheries at sea. Not only does illegal fishing impact on management and overfishing but it also has broader ecosystem impacts such as the bycatch of seaturtles, seabirds and sharks in the longline fisheries for tuna and Patagonian toothfish (Gianni and Simpson 2005).

The estimate of illegal fishing for the area covered by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources was 938 tonnes for 2008-09. This is less than the illegal catch in 2007-08 (1,169 tonnes), and substantially less than that caught in 2006-07 (3,615 tonnes) and 2005-06 (3,420 tonnes) (AFMA 2010; AFMA 2009).


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