The Australian Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation is to conduct a one-year study to examine ways of making better sustainable use of by-product in a bid to boost the overall profitability and efficiency of Australia's longline fisheries.
Australian Fisheries Minister Senator Ian Macdonald said managing by-product had always been an environmental priority for fishers, but now fish that were once considered of little worth could become a profitable sideline income.
"A number of these 'byproduct' species were previously discarded, but now represent an important and growing source of income for many tuna and billfish operators," Senator Macdonald said. "Despite their growing importance, little is really known about how to manage them, both in terms of boosting commercial returns and ensuring their long-term conservation.
"This Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS) project, will improve our understanding of byproduct species and contribute significantly to the sustainable management and long-term viability of Australia's highly valuable tuna and billfish fisheries.
"The project will focus on when and where the byproduct species are caught, the degree of co-occurrence of non-target and target species in longline catches, the economic importance of both species and how all these factors can change over time."
Senator Macdonald said a successful project also had the potential to reduce the demand for target species, thus ensuring Australia's already world-class managed fisheries were further improved.
"Using byproduct more efficiently could boost the overall profitability of the fishery, and reduce pressure on target species, such as bigeye tuna and swordfish, by offering economically viable alternatives," he said. "Importantly, the project will help our managers assess how the decisions they make regarding the target species might affect the byproduct species."
Senator Macdonald said that BRS scientists would work closely with industry representatives, economists and fishery managers to ensure the study delivered a well-rounded picture of the numbers and economic value of the non-target species caught in Australia's longline fisheries.
"The close involvement of stakeholders throughout the project will help ensure we get quality information, improve our general understanding of the fisheries, and encourage comprehensive management decisions that deliver sustainable fishing practices and reduce waste," he said.
Senator Macdonald said the project's findings would be made available to a wide range of stakeholders and interested parties, including fisheries management committees, industry bodies and the wider Australian community.
The study will be funded through the Australian Government's Fisheries R&D Corporation and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.