The AFMA Research Committee (ARC) is calling for full proposals for the following essential research priority for the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery, for potential funding in 2022/23.

Key information for applicants when completing and submitting full proposals

When completing and submitting full proposals, applicants should:

  • use the 2022/23 research priority scopes outlined below as a guide when developing their full proposals to meet the identified need for the project
  • use the AFMA research application form to prepare their full proposals
  • include in their full proposals:
    • the projected costs and expected funding source, as well as alternatives; and
    • the proposed contractor’s full legal identity/description, including each corporation’s full description and Australian Company Number or the full names of all partners/joint venturers. A trading name and/or Australian Business Number should also be notified, but only if registered to the parties described.
  • email their completed full proposals to the AFMA Research Secretary at research.secretary [at] afma.gov.au by Monday 15 November 2021.

Antarctic research priority scope

Project Title: Quantifying post-release survival of skate bycatch in the Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) Patagonian Toothfish longline fishery

Project Need: 
There is a need to quantify post-release movement behaviour and survival of Bathyraja irrasa caught in the HIMI longline fishery.

Skates (Rajidae) are commonly taken as incidental bycatch in demersal longline fishing operations throughout deep waters of the Kerguelen Plateau. Due to their life history characteristics of slow growth and late maturation, their populations are particularly vulnerable to fishing mortality which can lead to localised population declines. At HIMI, B. irrasa represents the most abundant bycatch of any species taken in the Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) fishery operating within Australian EEZ waters. Importantly, skates caught in the longline fishery are hauled up to the vessel roller and assessed for condition.

Skates assessed to be in good or average condition following the CCAMLR Skate Condition guidelines are released, often by cutting off the snood to maximise post-release survival. Despite this assessment, an unknown proportion of skates are unlikely to survive due to injuries obtained from capture on longline hooks or changes in pressure as they are raised through the water column. 

Furthermore, previous research indicates depth of capture and size of individuals is an important predictor of post-release mortality (Knotek et al., 2018). As a large species (up to 1.5m total length and 20 kg mass) that inhabits the deeper slope waters (up to 2.2km depth) of the Kerguelen Plateau, B. irrasa is likely to be at high risk of post-release mortality. With this species making up ~85% of skate bycatch in the HIMI longline fishery and with ~90% of skate bycatch being released it is imperative that post-release survival is quantified.

Desired Outcomes:
This research will directly support the management of skate bycatch in the HIMI longline fishery by providing a measure of post-release survival which is essential for producing accurate population viability estimates from population models. This will inform accurate estimates of precautionary yield to set sustainable skate bycatch limits at HIMI.

Contacts:
Brodie Macdonald
A/g Senior Manager, Antarctic Fisheries
Phone: 02 6225 5368
Email: brodie.macdonald [at] afma.gov.au ">brodie.macdonald [at] afma.gov.au 

Natalie Couchman
Research Manager
Phone: 02 6225 5382
Email: research.secretary [at] afma.gov.au