16 July 2018

Jarrad James is one of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s (AFMA) dedicated Observers. He has worked as an Observer for nearly eight years and been on so many trips that he has lost count!

Jarrad James during one of his trips to the Southern Ocean as an AFMA Observer

For the past four to five years, Jarrad has worked primarily in the Southern Ocean fisheries and has become our resident iceberg photographer. While back in the office between trips, we took the opportunity to find out more about his career and his recent adventures to the Southern Ocean.

 What drew you to AFMA’s observer program?

I’d always been interested in working in fisheries and the Southern Ocean so when I saw that AFMA was looking for more Observers, I jumped on the chance to apply and was lucky enough to get in.

What are your favourite fisheries to work in and how long are you usually at sea?

I really like working in the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery, which is based off the coast of South Australia, as it’s always interesting to see how the purse seine nets work in action.

My other favourites would have to be the Northern Prawn Fishery and the exploratory fisheries in the Southern Ocean.

My longest trip has been five months in the Southern Ocean. We went back to port briefly, which broke up the trip but it was still quite challenging to be at sea for that length of time. However, most trips are around three months.

What’s been your favourite trip to date?

My favourite trip by far was when I had the opportunity to go on an exploratory trip to Antarctica and deploy specially designed cam

An invertebrate community on the Antarctic seafloor. © Dale Maschette/Australian Antarctic Division

eras, developed by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), to capture the world’s first footage of the deep Antarctic seabed.

One of the highlights was getting footage of krill swarming at a depth of about 1000 metres, which was much deeper than what scientists had previously thought.

The cameras, which were deployed thousands of metres below the surface, also captured incredible footage of bioluminescent jellyfish, brittle stars and the soft, fine sediment on the East Antarctic seafloor known as ‘marine snow’.

In other areas, the seafloor and invertebrate communities changed dramatically and we saw dark or rocky parts of the seabed, deep sea corals, sponges and some inquisitive rattails, Antarctic cod and squid.

What was involved in the camera project?

As this was the first time using the cameras, there was a fair bit of trial and error. The cameras were deployed using the demersal longlines on the fishing vessel and needed to be 0.5 metres above the seabed and in the correct position, which required playing with floats and weights. It took a few attempts to get it perfect, but on the second attempt I was pretty chuffed to pull up the camera and see the very first images of the East Antarctic seabed!

The footage captured by the cameras gave researchers an insight into the invertebrate communities living at the bottom of the Southern Ocean and the sediment they live on. This information contributes to the scientific research AFMA uses to make management decisions, such as setting catch limits for the fisheries, and to gain a greater understanding of this relatively unexplored environment.

What keeps your passion alive for being an Observer?

The ability to do trips like this and go places that most others don’t get the opportunity to visit. Seeing the amazing iceberg formations and Antarctic wildlife is also pretty special – it’s one thing to see it on television but it’s another thing entirely to experience it up close!

 

AFMA places observers on Commonwealth commercial boats in many Commonwealth fisheries to collect unique, accurate and reliable data on fishing operations, catches, and interactions with the marine environment by the vessel and its fishing gear.

More information on the AFMA Observer Program can be found at afma.gov.au.