9 July 2018

Bycatch is sometimes considered as an inconvenience to daily fishing operations, but there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the common bycatch species encountered by Commonwealth fishers.

Species like draughtboard sharks, stingrays and skates are commonly caught during commercial fishing operations found in all Commonwealth fisheries and can cause disruption to the crew’s workflow, but they play an important role in the ecosystem and have some incredible traits.

For instance, draughtboard sharks have an impressive array of other names (like Australian Swellshark, Flopguts, Isabell’s Swell Shark, Nutcracker Shark, Rock Shark, Sleepy Joe…the list goes on). They also lay flask shaped eggs with wiry tendrils attached to the bottom, and when disturbed they can swell in size by filling with air or water. Check out this video from the Australian Museum to see the draughtboard shark in action.

The unique traits of the draughtboard shark is one of the many reasons why the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is working with operators to ensure bycatch species are handled appropriately. Correct bycatch handling can minimise the impact on these species, ensuring they remain part of a healthy marine ecosystem into the future.

Fishers must ensure they handle bycatch in accordance with their bycatch handling conditions and AFMA’s six bycatch handling principles. Fishers should always follow best practice handling techniques for shark species as outlined in AFMA’s shark handling guide.