As Humpback whale populations in the southern hemisphere recover from past commercial whaling, the potential for interactions between whales and commercial fishing operations is increasing, with most entanglements occurring since 2006. The majority of entanglement incidents involve Humpback whales, a species listed as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth EPBC Act and NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.
The workshop objectives identified a range of fishing gears and techniques suitable for the mitigation of whale entanglements to be tested by commercial fishers, and considered modification of existing NSW OTL Fishery Codes of Practice to include specific practices to mitigate whale entanglement.
Allowing for limitations in budget and timeframe, the report recommends that initial gear trials should introduce industry to a range of mitigation measures, including modifications not currently permitted under current NSW OTL fisheries management arrangements through an agreed permit
Gear trials should be undertaken to determine the practical utility and safety aspects of gear modifications that may potentially minimise whale entanglement. Trials will determine potential uptake by endorsed fishers and provide focus for further scientific trials to determine whale entanglement mitigation.
The East Coast Whale Entanglement Mitigation Program is made up of two individual projects funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Australian Government Marine Park Fisheries Assistance Extension Program.