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Environment and Heritage
Senator Robert Hill

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Forestry Minister
The Hon Warren Truss


28 November 2000

Commercial fishers will work in partnership with a network of environmental resource officers to develop practical solutions to bycatch problems facing the industry under the 'SeaNet' network launched today by Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill and Fisheries Minister Warren Truss.

Senator Hill said 'SeaNet' fisheries environmental extension officers will provide 'hands on' technical assistance for fishermen to help them reduce or eliminate the environmental impacts of fishing.

Established with funding of $700 000 from the Natural Heritage Trust and in-kind support from the fishing industry and conservation groups, SeaNet has a national coordinator and four extension officers based in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales.

"Reducing the environmental impact of fishing is in everyone's interest," Senator Hill said in Cairns.

Fisheries Minister Warren Truss said the Commonwealth released its bycatch policy in June this year and recently funded ongoing research into bycatch reduction methods. "SeaNet is taking the results of that research and putting it directly into the hands of fishermen who can develop more efficient methods. It's about taking the theory and science and developing some practical solutions," Mr Truss said.

"We must maintain the ecosystems which support commercial fish populations to ensure long-term viability for the industry. Bycatch reduction measures can also have real economic advantages with outcomes including shorter sorting times and less damage to product," he said.

Bycatch is a major issue confronting the Australian fishing industry. A recent fisheries status report estimated that in eight Commonwealth managed fisheries that landed a total of approximately 60 000 tonnes of product each year, up to an additional 90 000 tonnes of non-target species or bycatch was discarded. This bycatch can have a significant impact on the environmental health of the systems on which fishermen rely. .

"The SeaNet Service is delivered through a consortium of conservation, fishing industry and Government agencies and is designed to work directly with the fishing industry to encourage the uptake of environmentally friendly fishing gear and fishing methods," Senator Hill said.

"SeaNet acts as a clearing house for bycatch reduction innovations developed by fisheries researchers and the fishing industry both domestically and internationally. SeaNet officers work with fishers to develop new bycatch reduction techniques and to assist with the implementation of existing measures."

"The development of acoustic beacons to be attached to fishing nets to scare marine species such as dolphins, sharks and seals away from nets is one of the many innovative approached being taken to reducing bycatch."

Working with the Queensland Department of Primary Industry, SeaNet has assisted with the development of cheap and effective acoustic 'pingers'. These are currently being tested by the industry.

SeaNet Officers
Queensland - Dennis Ballam, Cairns 0500 894 011
South Australia - Tim Braund, Adelaide 08 8363 6811
Victoria - Matt Fox, Melbourne 03 98240744
New South Wales - Katie Young, Sydney 02 9660 9969
New South Wales - Nicole Middleton, Sydney (SeaNet Administration) 02 9552 3574

28 November 2000

Further information:
Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill) 0419 258 364
Yvonne Best (Mr Truss) 0418 415 772

Commonwealth of Australia