Environment & sustainability

Part of making prawns the best choice for your body, mind and conscience is ensuring that they are caught in such a way as to be gentle on other ocean life. Fishers in the Northern Prawn Fishery are pioneers in sustainable prawn harvesting. Turtle Exclusion Devices or TEDS have been used in the NPF for over a decade now and other bycatch reduction methods also help minimise the impact of trawl fishing. The latest bycatch reduction technology and practices have lowered catches of turtles by 99%, and sharks and rays by up to 36%. Due to the successful reduction in turtle captures, the NPF has been accredited under stringent turtle guidelines for the United States, which enables prawns from the NPF to be imported into the US. NPF operators are continually innovating and trialing new bycatch reduction devices to improve their effectiveness. In fact, the NPF is recognized as one of the most carefully managed fishery in the world.

The fishery has embraced Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management, which is a relatively new concept that essentially reverses the order of management priorities to focus on ensuring sustainability of the ecosystem as well as target species. Sophisticated scientific models are utilised by scientists to determine the sustainable level of harvest for the coming year based on breeding patterns, climatic cycles and other factors.

Fishing effort levels are then set for the entire fleet to abide by and the season’s start time and end times are set down to the minute. Every single net is inspected and tagged for compliance. Every trawler and their catch are electronically monitored 24/7, and as soon as the catch trigger limit or end date is reached, the season is over – leaving the rest of the year for the prawns to replenish.

The industry also identifies and limits access to large areas of delicate seagrass beds and spawning grounds in a concerted effort to maintain a balance between fishing effort and the ecosystem. Less than 12% of the area of the fishery is actually trawled during fishing activities.

Lower in the food chain, more efficient protein.

When you think about what’s needed to create a kilo of beef, chicken or lamb, take into account how much feed, water and land is needed. Land and especially water use for livestock, is one of the most pressing sustainability issues facing us today. Of course, food from the sea requires no precious land or fresh water.

But even amongst seafood, you will find prawns a great choice.

Some of the more glamorous seafood, Tuna, Salmon and the like, are large fish that grow that way by eating other fish, which in turn eat other fish. The amount consumed to produce 1 kilogram of fish is therefore multiplied by a factor of at least two and up to 10 times. That is, the fish must consume up to 10 times its own bodyweight for every kilo of fish that finally makes it to your plate.

But prawns are incredibly efficient at converting whatever they eat into body mass, meaning that the leaf material, plankton and other tiny bits and pieces that prawns munch on become tasty, healthy nutrition for you very quickly.

Industry driven Research and Monitoring.

Collection of detailed and precise information is a critical part of ensuring sustainable management of the fishery, and fishers invest a lot of time and money on the collection of data.

Industry work in partnership with CSIRO to undertake surveys each year to develop an understanding of how healthy the prawn stocks are before they start fishing. A number of NPF vessels also carry scientific observers each year, who gather information on catch composition, bycatch, threatened species interactions and other important details. Crew members on board are also involved in the collection of information on interactions with threatened species and bycatch levels through the Crew Member Observer Program, and are trained by scientists each year to ensure they are skilled in the identification of species and data collection techniques. All skippers fill out a daily logbook which records where they have fished, what they have caught, and other important information.