Dolphin deaths close Australian shark fishery

A key shark fishery has been closed for six months because authorities found that more than 45 dolphins had died there in the past year. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority yesterday took the rare step of shutting gill nets out of a swath of Southern Ocean, near Kangaroo Island. The four-kilometre nets in the South Australian fishery, which supplies flake to Melbourne fish shops, first came under scrutiny earlier this year over sea lion deaths.

In a move to reduce an estimated 374 sea lion deaths each breeding cycle,   the authority began observing all the fishery’s boats in May.

Over the past four months, 20 dolphins were  counted dead in the nets,  compared  with  25 in the previous eight months, according to the authority.

Even the authority had acknowledged the ”significant and serious  under-reporting” in this fishery on interactions with marine mammals, said  Kathryn Warhurst, of the Conservation Council of South Australia.

Humane Society International’s Alexia Wellbelove said the South Australian  experience showed the importance of having a monitoring camera, or human  observer, aboard each vessel in such contentious fisheries. ”I think what it  shows is that the industry isn’t always telling us about their encounters with  seals and dolphins,” Ms Wellbelove said.

But Kyri Toumazos, a spokesman for the shark gill netters who work the  fishery, said the increased deaths came about when shark fishers were displaced  from their usual fishing grounds to waters off the newly re-opened Murray River  mouth.

”There have been enormous numbers of dolphins there recently attracted by  the bait fish there,” Mr Toumazos said.

He defended the fishery as transparent, and said he expected it to re-open  after the authority’s six-month ban.

”Meanwhile, it will reduce the supplies of flake to Melbourne in  particular,” he said.

Source: smh

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