ACAP Advice on Improving Safety when Hauling Branch lines during Pelagic Longline Fishing Operations
The relative safety of weighted branch lines during flyback events in pelagic long line fishing requires thorough consideration. When the branch line is under tension when hauling catch, a flyback event may occur in two ways: 1. a ‘bite off’ event in which the branch line is bitten off, or 2. a ‘tear out’ event in which the catch is lost when the hook is torn out of the fish. At that moment the tensioned branch line may flyback at speed and the crew on deck may be in danger of being hit by the weight, and, in the event of a tear out, the hook or the weight. Flyback events are rarely reported. However, there have been a small number of reported cases where these events have caused injury and a few times death. Weighted branch lines reduce the incidence of seabird bycatch. Decreasing the incidental catch of seabirds is important for the conservation of seabirds, especially threatened albatross and petrel species. Branch line weighting potentially increases the hazard from flyback events. To avoid or minimise the hazard of a flyback event, various technologies and techniques can be implemented as part of the fishing vessel’s hazard management procedure. Branch lines with sliding weights will help to reduce the hazard posed by flyback events, compared with fixed weighted swivels. The crew may employ safety precautions that reduce the potential hazard from a flyback event, and which help to protect those involved in hauling of catch if a flyback event occurs. A combination of new technologies and better techniques can address the hazard posed by flyback events to crew. These changes will enhance workplace safety when hauling catch during pelagic longline fishing operations.