Seabird mitigation ideas captured for net fisheries

Individuals from Australia and New Zealand recently met to brainstorm new measures for reducing the risk to seabirds from gill and trawl nets...


Fishers involved in gill net and trawl fishing have few practical or technical options available for preventing seabird mortalities. Current measures that are practiced in some gillnet fisheries include holding offal on board when nets are being shot away or hauled, staying with the net to remove any seabirds before they drown, minimising soak time, and only using nets in low seabird risk areas or at low risk times. Measures used in some trawl fisheries include limiting or stopping offal discharge when shooting or hauling the net, removing “stickers” (fish caught in the mesh) out of nets, and binding the net while it is being released.

None of these measures is wholly effective in all circumstances and practical, cost effective solutions still need to be found.

The eighteen people participating in the technical workshop in Christchurch included individuals from gillnet and trawl fishing companies, skippers, fisheries consultants, seabird scientists, New Zealand and Australian government officials, research companies and a fishing net manufacturer.

Participants came up with a wide range of ideas, and these were whittled down to eight that particpants thought showed the most promise. They included:

For trawl:

·       Restricting the mouth of the net when it nears the surface 

·       Laser beams pointing towards the mouth of the trawl net

·       Mesh colour that is more visible to seabirds

·       Drones that fly over the mouth of the net

For gillnets:

·       Using a gillnet roller that shortens the time the gillnet is on the surface 

·       Mesh size and net height

·       Acoustic pingers to alert seabirds of the presence of the net

·       Mesh colour that is more visible to seabirds

Richard Wells, from the NZ Deep Water Group, said the workshop was “very useful and motivating to rethink through options and look to new solutions”.

Download workshop report

Find out more about the workshop

The workshop was sponsored by the Convention for Migratory Species, Ministry for Primary Industries and Deep Water Group.