Animal welfare guidelines to assist the Australian commercial fishing have been developed under the AAWS.
It is expected that the majority of commercial fishing operations meet these guidelines in their existing day-to-day operations.
The guidelines released apply to vertebrate fish species and were developed by the Aquatic Animal Welfare Working Group established within the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. This covers commercial and recreational fishing sectors, the aquaculture sector, ornamental fish sector and the animal welfare sector from across Australia.
The guidelines are not detailed, specific documents covering every single aspect of a fishing operation. They are a set of ‘guidelines’ to assist the commercial fishing industry to ‘minimise stress’ of aquatic animals within the constraint of fishing practices inherent to each capture method.
The guidelines recognize that there is a close relationship between aquatic animal welfare and existing commercial fishing industry handling techniques to maximize quality of seafood products.
The main commercial capture fishing sector methods identified were:
- Line - hand, drop, longline
- Trawl - otter, beam, stern
- Pot &Trap
- Seine - beach and purse
- Gill (mesh) net
Experienced commercial fishers in each of the capture fishing method were nominated by industry peak bodies and assisted in the initial drafting of the guidelines related to their fishery. Existing commercial fishing industry guidelines relating to seafood quality handling were considered to ensure that the animal welfare guidelines did not contradict what industry applies in practice.
The guidelines were aligned with a set of Aquatic Animal Welfare – Overarching Principles – that appear as an appendix to each set of guidelines.
These documents are not regulatory but a set of voluntary ‘guidelines’ for the benefit of industry. They are ‘living’ documents, able to be adapted by industry participants to fit the particular fishing methods used by each individual in a fishery.
The guidelines will be reviewed regularly by industry for improvements in knowledge on animal welfare, new fishing technology or improvements in capture methods for vertebrate aquatic species.