The purpose of the program is to assist Australian inshore fishers in embedding best practice environmental stewardship into commercial fishing and aquaculture operations. In doing so, the program will address national marine priorities aimed at advancing the sustainability of the Australian seafood industry by:
Enhancing fish habitats and improving water quality in estuaries and coastal environments;
Working with industry and local communities to minimise environmental impacts of commercial activities;
Introducing industry and communities to sustainable technologies and behaviours that will deliver a more productive and profitable industry.
This project is supported by OceanWatch Australia, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
The following projects are included under the WetFEET program:
The ocean is impacted by bushfires in several ways, one of which is visual debris and ash entering the waterways. Anecdotally we see declines in aquatic health and in extreme cases reported fish kills. Despite the unprecedented intensity of the 2019-2020 bushfires, very little is known about their specific impact on the Australian marine flora and fauna, and the little that is recorded, is scattered in many datasets across the Country.
As part of the Australian Government’s investment in bushfire recovery for wildlife and their habitats, OceanWatch Australia is working on an online spatial mapping tool that aims at illustrating the impacts of the 2019-2020 bushfires on our estuarine and coastal ecosystems. The tool will be populated by existing and new spatial datasets, and it will support communities and industry in discussing, planning, and prioritising appropriate bushfire response actions that will improve the outcome for marine ecosystems in the future. The spatial tool will be accompanied by a Fish Habitat Protection Protocol, which will be informed by the findings of this project.
Ultimately, this project will assist natural resource managers, community members, farmers and fishermen with decision making pre- and post-bushfires, and increase the resilience of marine ecosystems to the impacts of future bushfire events.
For further information contact Dr Claudia Santori at Claudia@oceanwatch.org.au
East Coast Whale Entanglement Mitigation
The population of Humpback whales on the East Coast of Australia has risen, and so has the potential for interactions between whales and commercial fishing operations.
Proactively, OceanWatch are working with the Department of Environment, NSW Professional Fisher’s Association, NSW DPI Fisheries, NSW NPWS and industry on a program that aims to reduce the incidence of, and risks associated with whale entanglements in NSW Ocean Trap and Line fishing gear.
A collaborative workshop involving experts from across Australia has already occurred. Risks and potential mitigation measures to reduce the likelihood of interaction have been prioritised. The focus of this work relates to NSW fish trap and spanner crab fishing methods.
OceanWatch have since assisted in the development, partial extension of a code of practice to reduce whale entanglements. OceanWatch and the PFA, through a NSW DPI permit process, are now working with fishers to trial the logistics of a number of mitigation measures during daily fishing practices.
Threatened, Endangered and Protected species and bycatch best practice
OceanWatch are working closely with industry associations and Australian professional fishermen to develop best practice training materials to minimise bycatch and potential interactions between commercial fisher operations and threatened, endangered and protected species (TEP).
Materials are contextualised to provide relevance specifically at a state based fishery level, assisting improved fisher awareness and adoption of best practice.
Modules comprise information that describes current bycatch and TEP species mitigation devices, best practice handling and release techniques and behaviours, and reporting requirements of potential interactions with species of concern.
Communities of Practice
OceanWatch Australia recognises best practice marine and coastal environmental interventions (repair, rehabilitation, restoration or eco- engineering projects) benefit greatly from both academic research and implementer input. Our Communities of practice project facilitates that blend.
Healthy coastal habitats (‘blue infrastructure’) are essential for the economic and social well-being of coastal communities. These habitats drive coastal productivity supporting our fisheries and other industries. However, these habitats are threatened by anthropogenic activities, which has led to drastic declines in many of our important marine and coastal habitats.
CP across Australia are a means for topic experts and practitioners to gather, share and learn what participants are working on individually. Collectively sharing this knowledge helps focus relevant monitoring and research of marine assets and guides best practice on-ground environmental interventions. This activates world-class best practice science to maximise the impact of available management resource interventions. CP may also inform and assist best practice considerations for responsible fishing practices. CP knowledge transfer plays an increasingly important role for Australia as the loss of marine biodiversity and climate change occurs. Marine assets support the productivity and health of fishing and aquaculture professional businesses; therefore, it is vital that environmental interventions make the most of limited resources.
The Master harvester is a formal training and recognition program tailor-made for the NSW oyster industry. The program involves the development and delivery of a training package, raising the awareness of environmentally and socially responsible production.
With training materials aligned to a unit of competency of the ‘National Seafood Training Package’, participating farmers will be able to demonstrate a commitment to responsible and sustainable farming practices. Block chain technology will be investigated, as a means to transfer information from the farm, to the consumer. This may include details on provenance, farmer values, and their formal recognition as a Master harvester. Public events will be organised as a means to connect recognised farmers with their local community.
The OceanWatch Master Fisherman program is formal training and assessment for professional fishers. Recognised OceanWatch Master Fishermen are continuing to raise the standard of responsible fishing in Australia. OceanWatch Master Fishermen are committed to responsible and sustainable individual fishing practices, going above and beyond the requirements prescribed by state, national and international regulations.
As part of WetFEET, the Master Fisherman program is now being expanded into South Australia and Victoria. The program will adapt the methodology of NSW Master Fisherman to suit the fisheries in these states.