OceanWatch Australia works with the seafood industry and the community to ensure Australia’s marine environment is healthy, productive, valued and used in a responsible way.

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Wild Harvest Fishing Methods


Professional fishermen harvest seafood in Australia both for local and international seafood markets.

The seafood harvested is either destined for human consumption or to supply bait for recreational angling.


Professional fishermen use a variety of fishing methods to catch wild harvest seafood species.

Some examples of common wild harvest fishing methods in Australia include:


Prawn Trawl

Prawn trawl fishing occurs in some of Australia’s estuarine and ocean waters to harvest mainly prawns. Some fish and other seafood species like crabs, bugs and octopus are also an important component of the catch, called byproduct.

Prawn trawl nets are towed behind prawn trawl boats, called prawn trawlers. As the trawler tows the trawl net, water pressure created from the trawl doors (or otterboards) keep the net open whilst it skims across the seafloor. The trawl nets are shaped like a funnel, where seafood species are directed toward the anterior section of the net called the codend where they are caught.

Trawl nets are regulated in size, i.e. have a maximum headline length and the sizes of the mesh openings are also regulated. Trawl fisheries in Australia are required to use specific bycatch reduction devices to minimise the capture of non-targeted species. See the bycatch section for more information.

Learn more about prawn trawl fishing methods that are used in Australia:

Estuary prawn trawling in New South Wales

Prawn trawl fishing activity in South Australia

Prawn harvest in Moreton Bay

Prawn trawling in Queensland


Crab Trap

Crab traps or pots are used by professional fishermen in estuary and ocean waters to target mainly blue swimmer crab, mud crab and spanner crab. The configuration and size of the mesh used in crab traps are regulated by state based fisheries legislation.

Professional mud crab trap fishing activity in New South Wales

Professional mud crab trap fishing activity in the Burdekin, Queensland

Professional mud crab trap fishing activity in Moreton Bay, Queensland

Professional blue swimmer crab fishing activity in New South Wales

Professional blue swimmer crab trap fishing activity in South Australia


Eel Trap

Fresh water eels are harvested by professional fishers using traps in rivers and estuary waters. Fishers are restricted to the number of traps they may use, depending on state management regulations.

Professional eel trap fishing activity in New South Wales


Fish Trap

Fish traps may be used by endorsed professional fishers, in some estuaries and ocean waters. Fish traps are used to harvest specific species of fish and some crustaceans. Fish traps are generally made from wire mesh.

Professional fish trap fishing activity in New South Wales


Hand Gather

Endorsed professional fishers may harvest a number of species using hand gathering methods, including pipi, beach worms, cuttlefish bone, seaweed and pumice stone.

Professional hand gathering fishing activity collecting pipi from ocean beaches in New South Wales

Professional hand gathering fishing activity collecting beach worms from ocean beaches in New South Wales

Pipi abundance surveys conducted by industry and OceanWatch on ocean beaches in New South Wales

Biotoxin management to ensure seafood safety in New South Wales – professional pipi hand gathering in New South Wales


Mesh Net

Mesh nets are used by endorsed professional fishermen to harvest a variety of fish and crustacean species. Mesh nets look a lot like a tennis court net with diamond shaped meshes. Floats on the top of the net and lead weights on the bottom of the net keep the net upright.

The size or openings of the diamond mesh and the total length of mesh nets are regulated by state based fisheries legislation.

Mesh nets are either placed in the water and retrieved immediately (splash) or soaked for a maximum time (set), depending on state based regulations.

Professional mesh net fishing activity in New South Wales

Professional mesh net fishing activity in Queensland


Estuary Prawn

A variety of estuary net fisheries target prawns in Australia. These fisheries use static nets that work in conjunction with the current and tide to harvest prawns. Some estuary prawn fishing techniques use mobile fishing gears to target prawns.

Prawn set pocket/stow net fishing activity in New South Wales


Seine Net

Seine net fishing activities are used in some estuaries and ocean beaches in Australia by endorsed fishers, to harvest a variety of seafood species. A seine net is retrieved slowly to ensure that the fishing gear maintains its shape whilst fishing. Seine nets are shaped like a funnel, where targeted seafood species are directed toward the anterior section of the net called the codend where they are caught.

Professional estuary seine net fishing activity in New South

Professional estuary seine net fishing activity in Victoria

Professional estuary seine net fishing in South Australia

Professional ocean seine net fishing activity in New South Wales


Tunnel Net

Tunnel net fishing is a technique which makes use of the natural dropping of the tide, herding fish into the end of a set net, known as the tunnel.

Professional tunnel net fishing activity and effectiveness of the separator panel in Queensland


Fish Trawl

Fish trawls are similar to prawn trawl fishing techniques. Fish trawls may be towed in the water column (midwater) or skim across the seafloor (otter trawl or demersal trawl).

Trawl fisheries in Australia are required to use specific bycatch reduction devices to minimise the capture of non-targeted species. See the bycatch section for more information.


Longline

Baited hooks are attached to a main line (a long line which can be many kilometres long) by short lines that are called snoods. The snoods are attached to the main line using clips.

Pelagic longlines are set to drift near the surface of the ocean with a radio beacon attached so that longline fishing boats can locate them and retrieve the catch.


Lobster Trap

Rock lobster fishing in Tasmania


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