REDUCING the impact of prawn trawling on sea snakes is the aim of a collaborative study involving CSIRO, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF).“Sea snakes are protected in Australian waters, but there is evidence that some species may be vulnerable or endangered,” CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research’s Dr David Milton says.“Sea snakes are relatively slow-growing and produce a few live young each year. So their populations will decline if a high proportion of females are caught before they breed, or their young do not survive. Many of the sea snake species caught in the fishery occupy the same seabed habitats as prawns, while those less commonly caught live among the relative safety of reefs. Understanding more about the effects of trawling on sea snake populations so that the impact can be reduced is a high priority for the fishing industry.”CSIRO and research partners have worked with industry to significantly reduce the incidental catch of turtles and other large bycatch species such as sharks and rays through the use of turtle-excluder devices (TEDs) and bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) in prawn trawl nets. But such devices have had little impact on the sea snakes being caught.The need to better understand the effects of trawling on sea snakes was highlighted in the 2003 strategic assessment of the NPF by Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH). The project will provide advice to DEH on the sustainability of sea snake populations.The study is funded by funded by the Australian Government through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.
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