Project number: 2004-060
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $111,338.36
Principal Investigator: David J. Sterling
Organisation: DJ Sterling Trawl Gear Services
Project start/end date: 14 Aug 2004 - 30 Mar 2008


Due to highly publicised concern about the impact of prawn trawling to the benthos, particularly pertaining to the GBR region, there is a critical need to minimise the intensity of seabed impact and demonstrate that the residual impact does not constitute a threat to biodiversity. This is consistent with the goals and strategies set by QFIRAC in their Strategic R&D Plan: 2002 – 2006. Specifically this need relates to QFIRAC’s key R&D areas titled, “Effect of Fishing/Cleaner Production” and the underlying goal, “Environmentally friendly fishing practices and technologies in place, which reduce to a minimum the impact of fishing on the environment”. The stated strategies of QFIRAC with respect to this goal are to support the quantification of the impact of trawling on the benthos and the development of innovations that minimise this impact. This project seeks to contribute to the latter strategy by quantifying the relative benthic impact of modified trawl gear with respect to a set of standard contemporary trawl gear.

The R&D plans and strategies of all advisory bodies to the FRDC contain high priority goals to reduce the impact of fishing on the environment. For example, the priority research areas identified by NORMAC includes; “improved efficiency in fishing gear and techniques in order to reduce bycatch and discarding, increased survivorship of bycatch and environmental impacts on the benthos”. This demonstrates that the proposed work has widespread relevance in terms of its potential application. The proposed work directly relates to trawling operations occurring in the GBR, which is a world heritage area and a national icon. This certainly makes the work of national significance.

Correspondingly there is also a need to determine the effects of the proposed modifications on the operating efficiency of trawl gear (operating efficiency can be thought of as a relative measure of the catching and engineering performance of trawl gear). This recognises that it is not only important to develop fishing technology that has improved environmental performance, but also it must maintain or improve the economic viability of fishing enterprises otherwise the technology is of low value to the industry and the community. This is consistent with FRDC’s Industry Development goal (planned outcome) that, “The commercial sector of the Australian fishing industry is profitable, internationally competitive and socially resilient”. The prototype devices to be investigated have been designed with the intention of maintaining or improving the catching and engineering performance of the trawl gear. The project will quantify these relative performances for the modified trawl gear with respect to standard contemporary gear.


1. Compare a new ground gear arrangement for prawn trawling systems with contemporary gear in terms of the composition of bycatch and operating efficiency.
2. Compare a new otter board design for prawn trawling systems with a contemporary design in terms of the scale of seabed interaction and operating efficiency.

Final report

ISBN: 0-9578341-3-6
Author: David Sterling

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