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WA, Commonwealth waters
- Endeavour prawns live in tropical waters and are short-lived and fast-growing. Long-term fishing records and estimates of the number of breeding animals indicate that stocks are healthy.
- Endeavour prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate just above the seafloor. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy seafloors in the Commonwealth and WA fisheries, and has a relatively low impact on the marine environment.
- Bycatch reduction measures are mandatory in these fisheries, and have reduced accidental turtle catches.
- All fisheries interact with threatened species, including critically endangered species of sawfish, sea snakes and pipefish. Although efforts have been made to reduce the impact of fishing on these species, catches remain significant although are not thought to be driving further declines in population numbers.
- Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery & Torres Strait Prawn Fishery (430t in 2016)
- WA Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery (398t in 2015)
The name ‘endeavour prawn’ refers to two species – red and blue endeavour prawns. Both species live in tropical waters and are short-lived and fast-growing. This species is a key additional prawn caught in fisheries that mainly target tiger prawns. Long-term fishing records and estimates of the number of breeding animals indicate that stocks are healthy in areas fished by WA and Commonwealth fisheries.
Prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate mainly over mud and sand. Otter trawls operate just above the seafloor when targeting tiger and endeavour prawns, which has the potential to cause significant habitat disturbance. Habitat types are relatively well understood in all fishing areas, tend not to support sensitive marine communities and are fairly resilient to disturbance. However, relatively little of the areas in which the fisheries operate is protected in spatial closures or marine parks. Research shows that marine parks are highly effective tools to protect ecosystems from prawn trawl fishing impacts.
Bycatch reduction devices (BRD) and Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) reduce the amount of threatened and other species that are caught and killed in fishing gear. BRDs and TEDs are mandatory in all these fisheries and have been successful in reducing turtle deaths. However, threatened species bycatch remains an issue.
Catches of sea snakes remains high in the Commonwealth-managed fisheries, although there is no indication that sea snake populations are declining as a result of fishing activity. Endangered sawfish, including the IUCN listed ‘Critically Endangered’ green and ‘Endangered’ dwarf sawfish are caught in the Northern Prawn Fishery (one of the Commonwealth managed fisheries) every year, although it is complex to design modified fishing gear to reduce sawfish mortalities because the shape of their rostrums means they are especially prone to entanglement.
The smaller scale WA-managed fishery also reports interactions with sawfish, turtles and sea snakes, but fishery reports suggest that as the fishery is small-scale, significant impacts on threatened species is unlikely. The smaller scale WA-managed fishery also reports interactions with sawfish, turtles and sea snakes, but fishery reports suggest that as the fishery is small-scale, significant impacts on threatened species is unlikely. Fishery plans include the introduction of an independent observer program, although it is unclear whether this has been implemented or progressed.
The Commonwealth fisheries have robust and transparent management arrangements in place, including observer programs, requirements to reports discards, assessments of the risk of the fishery to threatened species, plans in place to reduce bycatch that have proved to successfully deliver that objective, and management actions in place to rectify issues in the fishery, should they occur. It is likely these management arrangements will maintain the progress of these fisheries to reduce their impact on endangered wildlife in future.
Commonwealth marine parks, set to be established in 2018, may provide a degree of protection for endangered species and marine habitat, though it is notable that sectors of industry sought, and may secure, significant reductions in the area of the fishery protected from trawling.