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Research finds NSW commercial fishing is seabird-friendly

A Shy albatross in flight over NSW waters.

New scientific research conducted by NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has found it is extremely rare for threatened and protected birds to be harmed by commercial trawl fishing operations in NSW.

DPI researchers witnessed only a single, confirmed seabird death caused by the trawl operations out of 100,000 bird sightings during 500 fishing trips.

Large numbers of seabirds, including vulnerable Albatross and Shearwaters, were often attracted to fishing trawlers during their operations.

The research, led by DPI scientists Tom Barnes and Daniel Johnson, was co-funded by the NSW Commercial Fishing Trust and the NSW Government’s 10-year Marine Estate Management Strategy to gain a better understanding of how marine wildlife interacts with commercial fishing operations.

The funding helped expand DPI’s commercial fishing observer program, which collects critical data to inform adaptive management.Seabirds following a fishing trawler at sea

Trained scientific DPI observers travelled on 500 normal commercial fishing trips to collect information about the species, numbers and behaviour of seabirds that followed trawl vessels.

The observers also examined the different environmental and operational variables that attracted the seabirds to fishing vessels.

Findings from this research will be submitted to an international peer-reviewed scientific journal and made publicly available.

Find out more about the commercial fishing observer program.

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