Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

In situ examination of the behaviour of fish in response to demersal trawl nets in an Australian trawl fishery

M. Piasente A , I. A. Knuckey B , S. Eayrs A and P. E. McShane A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Environment, Australian Maritime College, PO Box 21, Beaconsfield, Tas. 7270, Australia.

B Fishwell Consulting, 22 Bridge St, Queenscliff, Vic. 3225, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 55(8) 825-835
Submitted: 19 March 2004  Accepted: 15 September 2004   Published: 16 November 2004


In situ examination of the behaviour of fish was undertaken with underwater cameras positioned on demersal trawl gear used by Australia’s South East Trawl Fishery. Blue grenadier (Macruronus novaezelandiae), pink ling (Genypterus blacodes) and whiptails (Coelorinchus spp.) swam in an anguilliform mode whereas other species displayed a carangiform swimming mode. Tiger flathead (Neoplatycephalus richardsoni) and ocean perch (Heliocolenus spp.) were active in response to the approaching trawl net compared with the generally passive activity of whiptails, New Zealand dory (Cyttus novaezelandiae), and jackass morwong (Nemadactylus macropterus). However, when in the body of the trawl, gemfish were active while ocean perch, whiptails and New Zealand dory were generally passive. Some blue grenadier, ocean perch and whiptails escaped capture by passing through open meshes in the trawl mouth, whereas tiger flathead passed under the ground gear. In the trawl body, small numbers of blue grenadier passed through open meshes in the top panel whereas numerous spotted warehou swam faster than the towing speed, presumably escaping capture by swimming forwards and out of the trawl. Interspecific behavioural variation in escape response could be utilised to design more efficient trawl gears.

Extra keywords: blue grenadier, jackass morwong, pink ling, tiger flathead, underwater camera.


The authors wish to thank Drs Chris Glass and Matt Broadhurst for constructive suggestions in the design and execution of the present study. Dr Broadhurst also provided comments on previous drafts. The assistance of the skippers and crew of commercial fishing vessels, Shelley and Zeehaan, is gratefully acknowledged. Dr Greg Cronin provided helpful advice in the analysis of underwater video data. Crispian Ashby and Ken Graham provided help and support at sea. Tim Shaw provided development and maintenance support for the underwater camera system used in the present study. Funding was provided by FRDC (project 98/204). Two anonymous referees provided constructive comments on a previous draft.


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