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Knowledge Sharing to Further Reduce Dolphin Interactions in Australian and UK Sardine Fisheries

Karen Attwood

Senior PR Manager UK & Ireland   

Australian fishermen have this week taken part in a knowledge exchange with Cornish sardine fishermen in Newlyn on how best to mitigate against interactions with marine mammals, such as dolphins.

The South Australian and Cornish purse seine sardine fisheries have had similar interactions with marine mammals and now, thanks to funding from the MSC's Ocean Stewardship Fund (OSF), they have been given the opportunity to share ideas and experiences.

Lisa Bennett, Senior Fisheries Outreach Manager at the MSC, who attended the exchange, said: “'I'm thrilled that the MSC, through the OSF, is able to support great initiatives like this knowledge exchange. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for fishing leaders from opposite sides of the world to come together and learn in the spirit of friendly collaboration.

In Newlyn, Cornish Sardine Management Association chairman Gus Caslake welcomed skippers Verne Lindsay and Mick Evenden along with South Australian Sardine Fishery fleet manager Claire Webber to a week-long visit.

Gus said: “To see fisheries scientists and managers come together and meet with fishermen face-to-face with this kind of input from such a variety of industry players makes this sort of event totally worthwhile.”

The first day of the trip provided an opportunity for the Australian visitors to walk around the harbour and familiarise themselves with the historic port of Newlyn. After a morning spent aboard sardine vessels in port, both skippers and Claire were able to spend consecutive nights at sea allowing them to see first-hand the Cornish sardine fleet at work.

On the second day of the visit, the visitors enjoyed a full day of presentations and workshops on interactions with endangered, threatened and protected species, along with discussions on the challenges faced by both parties and on how bycatch is managed and reduced.

They also enjoyed presentations from observers and monitoring organisations, including on the recent implementation of on-board cameras on some Cornish vessels from Arribada, creators of Insight 360 camera technology. In addition, Cefas presented on stock assessment and sampling while there were also workshops on pinger trials from the Sea Mammal Research Unit and acoustic monitoring of cetaceans from Dr Nick Tregenza on behalf of Chelonia. This knowledge sharing is particularly timely for the Australian fishery, which is due to trial an on-board camera monitoring system.

Claire said the trip to Newlyn had been “engaging and informative”.

The skippers and I have gathered and shared a wealth of information around fishing techniques, bluefin and sardine,” she said. “A big topic of interest from our perspective is managing common dolphin interactions and the workshop was enlightening from this perspective, especially in regards to the use of pingers. We look forward to receiving a return delegation from Cornwall in Port Lincoln next year.

The third day saw local and Australian skippers come together for a gear workshop with David O’Neill from Gannet Nets followed by lunch at Newlyn harbourside restaurant Argoe to eat sardines three ways. The Cornish fishermen learned over lunch that their counterparts seldom, if ever, eat oily fish like sardines or mackerel!

Australian sardine skipper Verne Lindsay said:I’m really impressed by the degree and depth of engagement from so many interested industry parties in working together to achieve the greatest degree of mitigation possible. It’s very different to back home in South Australia.

While Mick Evenden,  another Australian sardine skipper, said: “To be able to see and hear how well the guys work with that mix of other agencies was a real eye-opener and something I will be taking back home in order to face the degree of compliance, particularly video surveillance.

The afternoon was spent on a more relaxing tour of the once-huge pilchard fishing port of St Ives. The trip will culminate with visits to processor Falfish and to Brixham.

Will Treneer, skipper of the Lyonesse, said: Being able to exchange and share so much information and realise just how much you can learn from one another made this a totally worthwhile experience.

David O’Neill, from Gannet Nets, which supplies many UK boats, said:This was a great opportunity to see catchers, managers and others here together - the willingness of the likes of Cefas to listen and respond positively to feedback on their work was good to see.

The MSC commits 5% of annual royalties from sales of its certified products into the OSF, now in its fourth year, to accelerate progress in sustainable fishing worldwide, with a focus on small-scale fisheries and those in developing economies.