ACAP Advice on Improving Safety when Hauling Branchlines during Pelagic Longline Fishing Operations
The relative safety of weighted branchlines during flyback events in pelagic long line fishing requires thorough consideration. When the branchline is under tension when hauling catch, a flyback event may occur in two ways:
1. a ‘bite off’ event in which the branchline 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 branchline may flyback at speed and potentially hit the crew involved in hauling with the weight, and, in the event of a tear out, the hook will also recoil with 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 branchlines are implemented to 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.
Branchline 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. Branchlines 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 event to crew. These changes will enhance workplace safety when hauling catch during pelagic longline fishing operations.