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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.
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- Two species of endeavour prawns - blue and red - are caught in bottom otter trawls in Queensland. They are caught as byproduct by fishers targeting tiger prawns.
- While the endeavour prawn catch is weakly managed in Queensland, the species is likely resilient to overfishing and there is no evidence the stock is unhealthy.
- The accidental catch of threatened and endangered species like endemic sharks and rays is a major issue in Australian prawn fisheries. Bycatch mitigation measures including turtle excluder devices are used in Queensland but the state abandoned an independent observer program in 2012 so bycatch reporting may not be reliable.
- Endeavour prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate just above the seafloor. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy seafloors in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Current zoning means that 66% of the marine park is closed to fishing and the impact of trawling over previously trawled habitat is not thought to be of high risk to the environment.
- The Queensland fishery is managed under a newly implemented harvest strategy. The strategy is improving the balance of ecological, social and economic factors at play in the fishery by implementing management techniques which look after the stock better.
- East Coast Trawl Fishery (361t in 2020, 447t in 2019)
Endeavour prawns are found in northern Australian waters between northern New South Wales and the Gascoyne coast of WA. They are found in coastal waters down to 50m in mud or sand sediment.
While the endeavour prawn catch is weakly managed in Queensland, with no scientific assessments of stocks in place and poor identification of species in catch records the species are likely resilient to overfishing and there is no evidence the stock is unhealthy.
Queensland trawl fishers are required to report any threatened and endangered species they catch but serious concerns have been raised in this fishery about unreliable reporting. Despite no major changes to management and a consistent level of fishing effort in recent years, 2019 saw a 63% reduction in bycatch reports of species like sawfish, sea turtles and sea snakes. This bycatch reporting is unverifiable because there has been no independent observer program since 2012.
This fishery has a high level of discards and it is concerning they are not required to be reported. The most recently available data estimated 25,271t of discards in 2014, compared to 6702t of retained catch in the same year.
Endeavour prawns are mostly caught as a secondary species in the northern region of four management regions within the fishery. In this section, other secondary byproduct species include banana prawns and Moreton Bay bugs. In the central section where endeavour prawns are also caught, other byproducts include red spot king prawns, banana prawns, Moreton Bay bugs and saucer scallops. Tiger prawns are the main target species in both regions.
The fishery will be required to resume an independent observer program by 2024, likely to be based on e-monitoring. While it is welcome, the program should be implemented sooner.