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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 85:157-166 (2009)  -  DOI:

Mitigating discard mortality from dusky flathead Platycephalus fuscus gillnets

Matt K. Broadhurst1,*, Russell B. Millar2, Craig P. Brand1

1New South Wales (NSW) Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries Conservation Technology Unit, PO Box J321, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales 2450, Australia
2Department of Statistics, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand

ABSTRACT: The mortalities and contributing parameters were estimated for key species discarded during commercial gillnetting (80 mm mesh) targeting dusky flathead Platycephalus fuscus in a southeastern Australian estuary. Bycatches (1470 individuals from 16 species over 11 deployments) were assessed for their immediate mortalities onboard the gillnetter, before subsamples (570 individuals from 11 species) were discarded into cages and monitored for their short-term fate over 4 d. Appropriate controls were concurrently caged and monitored. Blood samples were taken from some live meshed-and-discarded yellowfin bream Acanthopagrus australis and luderick Girella tricuspidata and analysed for plasma cortisol and glucose. Concomitantly angled fish were similarly sampled (to provide baseline estimates of blood physiology). The immediate mortalities of the abundant species ranged between 0 (undersize blue swimmer crab Portunus pelagicus <6 cm carapace length) and 70% (undersize P. fuscus <36 cm total length [TL]). Water temperature had a statistically significant positive relationship with the immediate mortality of G. tricuspidata and large-tooth flounder Pseudorhombus arsius, and TL had a significant negative relationship with the immediate mortality of black sole Synaptura nigra. Compared to baseline estimates, mean plasma cortsiol concentrations in meshed-and-discarded G. tricuspidata and A. australis were significantly greater, and approached levels comparable to most teleosts after peak stress. Mean glucose concentrations were not concomitantly elevated, possibly reflecting limited time between stress and sampling for some individuals. Short-term mortalities occurred throughout the entire 4 d monitoring period for most species and ranged from 0 (yellowfin leatherjacket Meuschenia trachylepis) to 29% (A. australis). Water temperature and TL were identified as having significant impacts similar to those described above on the delayed fate of A. australis and G. tricuspidata. The partitioned mortalities were combined to provide estimates of overall mortality (± SE) for the main species that ranged between 5.9 ± 3.3% (P. pelagicus) and 76.9 ± 7.8% (undersize P. fuscus). Discard mortality in this fishery could be mitigated by allowing fishers to retain a small percentage of undersize P. fuscus, restricting the deployment of nets in water temperatures >16 to 17°C, and encouraging the careful removal of catches from meshes.

KEY WORDS: Gillnet · Bycatch · Discards · Mortality · Unaccounted fishing mortality

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Cite this article as: Broadhurst MK, Millar RB, Brand CP (2009) Mitigating discard mortality from dusky flathead Platycephalus fuscus gillnets. Dis Aquat Org 85:157-166.

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