OceanWatch Australia works with the seafood industry and the community to advance the sustainability of Australia’s seafood.

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Reducing bycatch

Professional fishermen in Australia implement bycatch reduction devices and strategies to minimise impacts on biodiversity, reduce unnecessary handling, and to avoid catching tomorrow’s catch today.

Our fishers operate according to stringent regulations and controls to ensure our fisheries resources are secured for the future.

The Definition of Bycatch is ‘the unintentional capture and discarding of non targeted catches’.

The term bycatch is also used to describe catches of undersize fish, inedible species, seafood without market demand or prohibited for sale.

Australian fishermen strive for continual improvements regarding their environmental performance, contributing funds and time each year to advance fisheries research. This work has resulted in Australia being recognised internationally for using some of the most environmentally sound technologies available. Experienced fisher’s understand the characteristics of their fishing gear and combined with local knowledge bycatch can be minimised.

OceanWatch Australia’s SeaNet program was Australia’s national environmental fisheries extension program for over 10 years. SeaNet officers worked with the seafood industry around Australia to advance environmental best practice, and helping to ensure responsible and sustainable fishing practices.

Learn more about bycatch reduction from the FRDC.

Prawn Trawling

Trawling has been heavily researched in Australia, resulting in major improvements to minimise incidental catches and potential for interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species.

Trawl fisheries in Australia are required to use regulated bycatch reduction devices, known as BRDs.

BRDs maximise the potential for fishing gears to avoid non-targeted species. Some examples of bycatch reduction devices include: sea turtle excluder devices, square mesh panels, square mesh and T90 oriented codends, fish-eye, big-eye, popeye fish box, blubber shoots, radial escape panels.

Learn more about bycatch reduction devices and techniques employed to harvest prawns in Australia:

Prawn trawling and bycatch reduction: Australia

Crab Pot

The configuration and size of the mesh used in crab pots or traps are regulated by fisheries legislation, aiming to minimise the capture of juvenile crabs and fish. Escape panels fitted in crab traps allow juvenile crabs and fish to escape, reduce handling time and improve the quality of retained catches.


Eel Trap

Escape rings may be fitted to eel traps to ensure the release of any juvenile eels that may enter the trap, resulting in improved quality of retained live eels.

Eel trap bycatch reduction device

Fish Trap


Fish traps are generally made from wire mesh.

Large mesh sections in traps ensure that catches consist of targeted sizes by maximising the escape of juvenile fish.


Hand Gather

Professional fishers harvest a number of species using hand gathering methods, such as pipi and beach worms. These methods have little to no bycatch.

Mesh Net

There has been much research in Australia to determine the configuration of mesh nets, and permitted sizes of the mesh openings. This ensures that this method of fishing minimises bycatch. The size or openings of the diamond shaped mesh are regulated by state based fisheries legislation.

In addition, professional fishers implement actions to maximise the survival of any juvenile fish and non-retained fish species that may be caught and released upon capture.

Techniques used by professional fishermen to reduce seabird predation on non-retained catches

Estuary Prawning

To reduce bycatch, fishers are regulated according to state based fisheries rules and regulations. This includes mandatory use of bycatch reduction devices, for example minimum mesh openings, square mesh netting and escape panels.

Solving bycatch in New South Wales prawn fisheries

Seine Net

The size of the mesh size openings in seine nets allows most juveniles to escape from the landed catch. Research has shown that mesh size is important and effective in reducing unwanted bycatch.

Estuary seine mesh sizes selectively removes juveniles from the catch

Tunnel Net

Research trials have improved the design of tunnel nets, for example fitting a large separator panel (modified turtle excluder device), which mitigates the capture of unwanted marine species such as stingray, sharks and turtles. Ensuring these species do not enter the tunnel of the net, the quality of retained catches are maximised. Fishers who operate with this method have also helped sea turtle scientists with the valuable collection of data.

Estuary seine mesh sizes selectively removes juveniles from the catch

Fish trawl

To minimise bycatch in Australian fish trawl fisheries, mesh size in fishing gears are regulated to reduce the capture of non-target species and juveniles.

Additionally, since the 1980’s hoppers have been used in Australian trawl fisheries to improve quality, reduce handling and increase survival of any non-retained catches.

Learn more about hoppers


A deep setting longline fishing technique trialed in Australia helps in reducing bycatch in Australia’s tuna fisheries.

Learn more about deep setting longline technique.

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