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

Partitioning of material discarded from Prawn Trawlers in Morton Bay

TJ Wassenberg and BJ Hill

Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 41(1) 27 - 36
Published: 1990


Prawn trawlers in Moreton Bay, Queensland, discard about 3000 t of material each year. About 3% floats, and the rest sinks. The floating component is almost entirely fish. At night, floating discards are eaten by silver gulls (Larus novaehollandiae), crested terns (Sterna bergii) and, to a lesser extent, dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). There is little trawling during the day but the last discards are dumped overboard around dawn. At this time cormorants (Phalacrocorax varius) join the scavengers. Birds and dolphins scavenged only fish and cephalopods, and not crustaceans nor echinoderms. Birds are selective as to the size of fish they will eat, but most of the whole fish in the discards are below 50 g, and the largest fish that crested terns ate was 100 g. Dolphins are capable of taking the largest of the discarded fish.

Most of the material that sinks is crustaceans (54%) and echinoderms (18%); the rest is elasmo- branchs and rubble. At night, about half of the fish that sink are eaten by diving birds and by dolphins. There was no indication of mid-water scavenging of sinking discards, except for cormorants and dolphins in the upper water column. Approximately 11% of the discards that reach the bottom comprise fish and crustaceans, which are eaten by crabs (Portunus pelagicus) and fish. The remainder- chiefly crabs, echinoderms and elasmobranchs-reach the bottom alive. Altogether, about 20% of discards are eaten by surface and bottom scavengers. Discards are probably important in maintaining populations of the major scavengers.

© CSIRO 1990

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