Coral Bycatch Programme
SIODFA has prepared a coral bycatch form for use by members. Usually no coral bycatch is taken when targeting alfonsino, the major species taken in the SIO deepwater fishery. When targeting orange roughy, which involves bottom contact with the gear, some form of coral bycatch, e.g. live corals but mainly coral rubble, is usually recorded in about 4% of the tows.
One particular issue has been how to record coral debris. Sometimes depositions on such debris indicate that the ‘coral’ bycatch has been dead for hundreds of years. This is an issue that requires further attention as it is unclear whether the presence of coral rubble actually indicates the presence of a vulnerable marine ecosystem.
Pictured below is an example of coral rubble whose weight exceeded the threshold amount: this was deemed to be a vulnerable marine ecosystem. As a consequence the SIODFA vessel’s captain was required to move 5 nautical miles away, i.e. essentially off the bottom feature where the aimed trawling was taking place.
Also pictured are photos of smaller ‘corals’ taken as bycatch. Interestingly, examples of coral colonization have also been recorded as the photo shows of coral growing on a piece of discarded wire rope. This photo also shows examples of coral recorded as bycatch.