3 August 2016

Last year the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), together with the South East Trawl Industry Association (SETFIA) created an Industry Liaison Officer position to help develop and work on projects involving both industry and AFMA.  AFMA Senior Management Officer Andrew Trappett was the inaugural officer and has returned to the AFMA Canberra office after spending over a year in Lakes Entrance. Here, he tells us about some of the highlights of his experience.

What did your role involve?

I had to pack up and move interstate from Canberra to the fishing port of Lakes Entrance, Victoria (about five hours away). I found a house and began working with the South East Trawl Fishing Association (SETFIA) at its office on Bullock Island. SETFIA represents around 35 otter board trawlers and 13 Danish seiners. These trawlers work in the AFMA managed South East Trawl Fishery off New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania catching fresh fish such as flathead, whiting and dories, mainly to be sold at the Sydney and Melbourne fish markets. My job was to work collaboratively with SETFIA fishers on a number of practical projects, mainly centred on managing the environmental impacts of the fishery and capacity building.

Photo of boats unloading their catch

South-east trawl boats unloading their catch at the Lakes Entrance Fisherman’s Co-op, Bullock Island Credit: Andrew Trappett, AFMA

Did you have any memorable experiences?

I really enjoyed spending a fun week at sea on a trawler, conducting research on seabird mitigation. The crew and I were testing some new technology designed to help prevent seabirds from becoming entangled in fishing gear which was working really well. The crew – Cyrus, Freddie, Renen and Jaywell – were a great bunch of guys to work with. They were full of humour and fantastic cooks to boot. For a fish-nerd like me, trawling is also a great opportunity to see some weird and wonderful fish first-hand.

What was the most rewarding part of your work?

Definitely spending time listening and learning from a wide range of fishers. They have some amazing experiences and stories and were always keen to share these with me. SETFIA’s chief executive officer Simon Boag was a fantastic host and a great help to me in understanding a lot of the issues and intricacies of running a fishing business in Australia. I learnt a lot from Simon and all the South East Trawl skippers and crew.

What was the most challenging thing about the experience?

Developing and implementing a nationally recognised TAFE online learning course for South East Trawl fishers on protected species mitigation. I ended up teaching myself how to make videos and animations to make the material engaging and easy to understand. I was proud to develop a course which was really well received by fishers and I helped facilitate over 40 skippers and crew attain the certification.

What has been the benefit of your work to South East Trawl fishers and AFMA?

This is the first time AFMA has placed an officer with SETFIA. While AFMA has a really good working relationship with SETFIA members already, this placement really helped increase the level of understanding and co-operation between our organisations which both share a surprising amount of common ground in our mutual objectives of maintaining sustainability. Fishers responded really well to having me full time in the port with them and I believe it was really helpful for AFMA to have an ongoing presence as a point of contact in such a busy port.

What will you be doing now?

Working on my Canberra tan.


AFMA would like to thank Simon Boag, CEO of SETFIA, SETFIA Board members and the broader fishing industry in Lakes Entrance for welcoming Andrew into their industry and their community.  It has encouraged us to continue with a Liaison Officer at Lakes Entrance and Danait Ghebrezgabhier has now taken up that post with SETFIA.