The Geelong Star super trawler has returned to Far South Coast waters after advice from seabird experts following the recent deaths of seven albatross due to the vessel’s net sonde cable, including five birds “in a single shot”.
Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) acting Chief Executive Officer, Dr Nick Rayns, said mitigation measures had been implemented since a ban was placed on the boat fishing by AFMA last week.
“We stopped them and had a long chat,” Dr Rayns said.
“Until then there was an average of one ‘interaction’ with an albatross every couple of trips, which is very minor.
“We call them ‘interactions’ because not all of them lead to mortality and all of them are recorded.
“Albatross do eat fish and are attracted to all fishing boats, so it does happen.”
Dr Rayns said the net sonde cable connecting a sonar device to the 95-metre factory trawler during fishing operations had been altered so the amount of wire in the air has now been reduced.
“We took our guide from the experts,” Dr Rayns said.
“We’ve spoken with one guy, Ben Sullivan, who works with BirdLife international and we’ve also got some advice from the Antarctic division who also deal with sea birds.
“Their recommendations have now been implemented.”
Dr Ben Sullivan is coordinator of the BirdLife International Global Seabird Program, and is employed by Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the UK partner of BirdLife International.
Dr Sullivan is well respected in the area of seabird research and spent seven years perfecting a device called a Hookpod aimed at saving several species of albatross from extinction.
The AFMA boss said the organisation is constantly “working on what is best practice” for the industry.
“The general trend for the Geelong Star has been in the right direction,” Dr Rayns said.
“Even the rate of fur seal interactions has declined over the last few months.”