Modelling the physics of prawn trawling for fisheries management
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Management of prawn trawling fisheries is a difficult task due to the competing interests of strongly motivated stakeholders and interest groups. This occurs because prawn trawling operations are technically complex, require large capital investments and exhibit high running costs while owners have limited property rights over the resources that they harvest. Prawn stocks are public resources and are managed with a view to provide maximum benefit to the broad community. Additionally their exploitation also involves the incidental capture of significant numbers of other animals of no commercial value (bycatch) and causes impacts on seabed morphologies, which are involved in many diverse ecosystem processes. At the policy level an intention to manage trawl fisheries in a comprehensive way is backed by a mandated approach that is designed to capture all of the above issues and interests. That approach is termed Ecological Sustainable Development (ESD). The work in this thesis is designed to produce a prediction tool for prawn trawling performance that is based on modelling the physical nature of prawn trawling activities. It is proposed that the resulting tool is essential for working to manage the multi-dimensional aspects of prawn trawling fisheries. Three discrete objectives for the thesis are; to expand and improve an existing Prawn Trawling Performance Model (PTPM) so that it is more accurate and relevant to a broader range of questions, to evaluate the capacity of the PTPM to predict the performance characteristics of real prawn trawling operations in terms of both engineering and catching performance and to investigate the problem space surrounding prawn trawl fisheries to identify and develop applications for the model. A rudimentary PTPM (Sterling 2000b) is expanded through the analysis of further empirical data collected for model and full-scale trawl gear.ght area of improvement to the PTPM were considered and in all cases significant changes were made. The accuracy of the new form of the model is here tested by comparing performance predictions with measurements of trawling performance for a variety of industrial trawl systems operated in the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery and also through comparing predicted trawling performance with prawn catches returned for trawlers operating in the Northern Prawn Fishery over the years 1970 to 2000. In the first case, errors in predicting swept area rate, considered an important performance parameter, were less than 5%. Fine scale issues were explored using the available sea mal data and a number of areas of concern within the model are highlighted. These relate to accurately quantifying the forces involved in the interaction of the trawl gear with the seabed and accurately accounting for the interaction between components within trawl systems. In the second case, the results suggest that between 50% and 60% of the variation in the seasonal catching performance of trawlers in the NPF is explained by predictions of swept area rate derived by the PTPM from the available data for that fishery. A comprehensive survey of applications for the PTPM is conducted in context with approaching the management of prawn trawling fisheries using the principles of ESD as defined by the National Strategy for ESD (1992). The Northern Prawn Fishery is used as a case study to explore in finer detail applications for the PTPM. Issues arising from the implementation of some of the applications are discussed.
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