Putting potential environmental risk of Australia's trawl fisheries in landscape perspective

Exposure of seabed assemblages to trawling and inclusion in closures and reserves
Fisheries Environmental monitoring Australia
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This project implemented the first national spatial approach to quantifying the exposure of mapped seabed assemblages to the footprints of all demersal trawl fisheries that operate on the mainland continental shelf and slope of Australia, as well as their spatial protection in areas permanently closed to trawling. These outputs will assist understanding of the potential risk to demersal assemblages from exposure to trawling footprints and of the contributions of existing spatial management measures to environmental sustainability, and with identifying and prioritising future needs for addressing risks to habitats. The focus provided by this prioritization is intended to reduce the costs of environmental assessments, and ultimately facilitate outcomes including reduction of the ecological risks posed by trawling and improved environmental sustainability. Trawling footprints were mapped from fishery effort data for recent years. Protection provided by current spatial management included all permanent trawl‐fishery closures, the Commonwealth Marine Reserve system (CMRs) and State Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Seabed assemblages — as surrogates for broad habitats — were defined and mapped using a single consistent method that has been enabled by recent advances in analysis methods and the availability of new data and knowledge. The overlaps of each assemblage with trawl footprints, and with areas closed to trawling, were calculated to quantify trawl exposure and spatial protection.

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