South East Fisheries, ELANORA HEIGHTS, AUSTRALIA
Australia's South East Trawl Fishery (SEF) is a fishery with many challenges to face regarding reducing its impacts on Australia's marine environment. Some target species that are 'managed' are being overfished and little is known about the impacts on marine habitats and non-target or bycatch species, species which are increasingly becoming an important part of the catch. The South East Trawl Fishery, one part of this fishery which also includes line, purse seine, mid-water trawl and gill-net methods, is Australia's oldest trawl fishery and encompasses a huge body of water. The fishery extends from 3 nautical miles out to 200 nautical miles offshore over an area stretching south from the Victorian/New South Wales border around Victoria, around Tasmania and South Australia, and west to the South Australian/Western Australian border. The demersal trawl nets used in this fishery are particularly efficient and therefore rather indiscriminate about what they catch. A suite of species is caught in any one 'shot' (or casting of the net). At least 365 species of fish and other marine animals are caught in trawl nets across the South East Trawl Fishery. Of these 365 species, only about 145 have any commercial value. Depending on their market value at a particular time, these species may be either kept for sale or thrown over the side (or discarded). The other 220+ species which have no commercial value are always discarded! Bycatch and overfishing are also components of other fishing methods used in the SEF, and the nature of these issues is specific to a given area, given methodology, and to some degree, to a given fisher. This contribution provides an introduction to Australia's South East Fishery, and discusses how Marine Protected Areas can help to vitalise the various elements of this complex fishery, and help the industry to address some of the environmental challenges it faces.