Spotlight on seabird safety for Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery season

The 2018 season for Australia’s Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery (MITF) commenced in mid-April, with fishers placing a spotlight on seabird safety in an effort to continue a 10-year success story of zero seabird interactions.

Macquarie Island is a unique place in Australia, and while a part of Tasmania it is located almost half way between Antarctica and Hobart.

CEO of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), Dr James Findlay said the island is home to a stunning array of wildlife, including seals, penguins and seabirds.

“Many threatened species live on Macquarie Island, including the wandering albatross, black-browed albatross, grey headed albatross, and grey petrel,” Dr Findlay said.

“The major threats to the birds were rabbits and rodents, and since the island was declared pest-free eight years ago, they are continuing to recover and thrive, with the status of some species improving on the threatened species list.

“The waters around Macquarie Island are home to a valuable Patagonian toothfish fishery, and AFMA recognises the environmental significance of Macquarie Island with some of the strictest fisheries management in the world.

“Along with ensuring the fish stocks are harvested at sustainable levels, protecting the local seabird populations is another focal point of commercial fishing operations at Macquarie Island.

“To avoid interactions with birds, AFMA only allows longline fishing in the MITF during winter months when the nights are long and the seabirds are less active.

“Boats are also required to use streamer lines off the back to scare birds away from the longline when it is being set, and a brickle curtain is used by the boat to prevent birds from coming near the line while it is being hauled on board.

“There have been no recorded injuries or deaths to seabirds caused by fishing gear since longlining commenced in the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery in 2007.”

Macquarie Island’s seabird populations were under threat from introduced cats, rats and rabbits since the Island was used as a staging base by Sir Douglas Mawson in 1911. Between 2007 and 2012 the Australian and Tasmanian Governments implemented a program to eradicate these feral species and return the island to its pristine state.

For more information on the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery, visit afma.gov.au.