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Sounding out fish grounds in North West Australia

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A new Curtin University Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) study aims to gain a more comprehensive picture of Western Australia’s largest and most inaccessible fishery.

Led by Dr Miles Parsons of CMST, the Australian Government’s Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC)-funded project will trial an acoustic survey program, with the help of the commercial fishing industry and the WA Department of Fisheries, to collect data about the Northern Demersal Scalefish Fishery (NDSF).

Stretching from south west of Broome to the Northern Territory border, in waters off the north west coast of Western Australia, and extending out to the edge of the Australian Fishing Zone, the Fishery supplies highly prized species including the red emperor and goldband snapper.

Dr Parsons said the enormity, inaccessibility and remoteness of components of the fisheries had traditionally made stock assessments expensive, making it difficult to gain a better understanding of the entire fishery.

“To counter these limitations, the project will partner with the commercial fishing industry to take advantage of the time their vessels are at sea and work with the Department of Fisheries WA to utilise their historical data and knowledge of the fishery,” Dr Parsons said.

“The three-year study will use advanced acoustic techniques to collect data from the sea floor and water column to provide maps of the habitat and relative abundance of fish and plankton across the Fishery.

“In temperate areas of the northern hemisphere, where diversity is low, stocks are relatively large and fisheries acoustics has become a standard technique to monitor and delineate essential fish habitat and to discriminate quantifiable stocks of individual species.”

Dr Parsons said commercial fishers were significant partners in the project and would help to collect substantial sets of acoustic data during their routine fishing operations over the next three years.

“By collaborating with fishing vessels, such as the Carolina M, and its skipper Adam Masters, who regularly operates across vast, remote areas, we can gather data in a way that would normally be impossible for us,” he said.

The study will be funded through the FRDC and Shell Development Limited, with substantial support from some of the licensees of the NDSF and the Department of Fisheries.

The CMST have investigated underwater acoustic techniques for over two decades and through this collaboration with industry will be helping to develop and standardise the collection of fisheries acoustics data in remote regions of Australia in collaboration with the commercial fishing industry.

Dr Miles Parsons, Research Fellow, CMST, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 9252, Mob: 0415 977 617, Email:

Andrea Barnard, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 4241, Mob: 0401 103 755, Email:


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