Southern Ocean. © Keith Martin-Smith/Australian Antarctic Division
A deep sea camera system has shown that Australian commercial fisheries are having little impact on sea floor biodiversity around Heard Island and McDonald Islands near the Antarctic.
In combination with scientific sampling, the cameras revealed that more than 98% of sensitive sea floor biodiversity remains in pristine condition following commercial fishing over the past 16 years.
The eight-year study, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, was a joint project between the Australian Antarctic Division, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and fishing industry partners, Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline.
Australian Antarctic Division fisheries scientist Dirk Welsford said the project aimed to investigate the potential impacts and sustainability of trawling and longlining for Patagonian toothfish in the Australian Fishing Zone .
The research also found that the majority of vulnerable organisms live on the sea floor at depths less than 1,200 metres. This habitat overlaps with trawl fishing to depths of 1,000 metres, and to a lesser extent longline fishing.
However, scientists estimate that only 0.7% of the sea floor within the fishing zone has had some interaction with fishing gear since the fishery’s inception in 1997.
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