Henry Wilson is one of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s (AFMA’s) newest recruits as an Observer. He has a rich history working in the marine field and decided to take up a position with AFMA as an observer on Commonwealth commercial fishing boats in 2018.
Henry shares with us his experience so far as an AFMA Observer.
For the last nine months I have been an Observer with AFMA after applying through the Temporary Employment Register on the AFMA website. I have always had a keen interest in the ocean and marine resources, having lived near the ocean, surfing, diving, fishing, and any other activities you can think of that involves the ocean. At university I studied a marine biology degree that sparked my interest in working in the field.
I have previous experience working on commercial fishing boats in state fisheries and have also done some volunteer work on shark dive boats out of Port Lincoln, South Australia. This role mainly involved taking tourists into the water to dive with sharks. My favourite dives involved the cages that are lowered to the ocean floor, but the cages that sit partially in the water on the surface are the most common experiences for tourists.
In the nine short months as an AFMA Observer I’ve been on 10 trips on Commonwealth commercial fishing boats. Most of these trips have been in the South East Trawl sector off the eastern coast of Australia, the Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) Fishery off Port Lincoln, as well as down near Tasmania on boats targeting pink ling and blue grenadier, and one trip on a longline boat in the Coral Sea Fishery (CSF). The trip in the CSF was my first trip as an observer and I really enjoyed it, particularly because the weather off the Queensland coast was nice and sunny and the types of fish I worked with were different to those found in the more southern fisheries.
The SBT trips have been my favourite so far because the whole operation is really impressive. The scale is actually quite large – there’s the spotter planes that monitor everything from the air, chum boats that attract the fish to a central area, the purse seining boat that drops the net into the water, divers that go into the water to tie the net to the tow pens, and so many other roles that play an important part in successfully catching the fish and transferring them to the grow out cages. My role is to generally observe what’s happening, but if there’s a mortality I’ll examine the fish and record information like sex, size and weight and extract the otoliths and take biological samples.
My next trip is a five-month trip to the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery in the Southern Ocean where the boats target Patagonian toothfish. I haven’t been to the Southern Ocean before so I’m looking forward to this trip and expanding my skills and experience as an AFMA Observer.
AFMA places observers on Commonwealth commercial boats in many Commonwealth fisheries to collect unique, accurate and reliable data on fishing operations, catches, and interactions with the marine environment by the vessel and its fishing gear.