Awards for science

Seabird saving device wins award

Seabird ecologist Dr Graham Robertson
Seabird ecologist Dr Graham Robertson
Photo: Nisha Harris
Australian Antarctic Division seabird ecologist, Dr Graham Robertson, and Queensland company, Amerro Engineering, have won the WWF's $45 000 International Smart Gear Competition for designing a longline fishing device that reduces seabird bycatch.

The Underwater Bait Launcher is designed for use on deep sea, longline fishing vessels such as tuna and swordfish boats. It uses a capsule which carries baited hooks six metres underwater, out of reach of seabirds.

Each year more than 300 000 seabirds, including albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, are drowned on longlines when they dive after baited hooks. Dr Robertson says many species of seabirds are threatened with extinction because of longline fishing practices.

the bait launcher on the stern of the F/V Annandale leaving Mooloolaba with engineers (L-R) Ian Carlyle, Phil Ashworth and Peter Ashworth preparing for sea trials
The device on the stern of a fishing boat in Mooloolaba with engineers (left to right) Ian Carlyle, Phil Ashworth and Peter Ashworth
Photo: None
'Hundreds of millions of hooks are set off tuna boats each year, so if a new system to stop seabird mortality is not widely used soon, it may be too late for some bird species,' he says.

The machine cost almost $500 000 to develop and is expected to retail for about $25 000. The Launcher is currently being trialed in Queensland waters and will undergo further tests in longlining hot spots off South America in 2010.

The International Smart Gear Competition has been running since 2004 and this year there were 71 entries from 27 countries.

NISHA HARRIS

Corporate Communications, AAD

Related information

Award for zooplankton website

A 10mm long amphipod viewed under a microscope
Components of the zooplankton, such as this 10 mm long amphipod, are an important food source for larger ocean-going animals.
Photo: A. Slotwinski, TAFI/UTAS
An online and CD-ROM Guide to the Marine Zooplankton of south eastern Australia, developed by Australian Antarctic Division and University of Tasmania scientists, has won a Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales 2009 Whitley Award (Commendation Certificate) for best Electronic Guide. The Whitley awards recognize outstanding publications (in printed or electronic form) that contain a significant amount of information relating to the fauna of the Australasian region.  

Antarctic Division biologist, Dr Graham Hosie, and his University of Tasmania colleagues, Dr Kerrie Swadling, Anita Slotwinski, Associate Professor David Ritz and Dr John Gibson, developed the interactive guide to enable rapid identification of over 50 zooplankton taxa in south eastern Australia. The guide also includes fact sheets covering taxonomic information, descriptions, photographs, diagrams, distribution information and ecology.

'This is just the beginning of the guide,' Dr Hosie says.

'We have the framework in place to easily add other species from around Australia and extend the guide further into Antarctic waters. We may even get the guide onto personal digital assistants and smart phones.'

Zooplankton constitute a diverse and abundant group of animals living in water bodies throughout the world. As they are the principal diet of most larger ocean-going animals, including commercially important fish, their study is essential to forming a more complete understanding of the functioning of marine ecosystems. While traditional identification keys have usually been designed for users with a high level of expertise, the new interactive guide allows both expert and novice users to identify their specimen to major group and species level, via an image-based key or diagnostic key.

The development of the guide was supported by the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, Australian Biological Resources Study and the Australian Antarctic Division. For more information contact australianzooplankton@gmail.com.

WENDY PYPER

Corporate Communications, AAD 

This page was last modified on 20 November 2009.