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NESP Marine and Coastal Hub (2023). Sea snake monitoring: improved collection of fisher bycatch data. Project 3.12 Information sheet. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Cairns, Queensland.
Northern Australian waters are inhabited by at least 20 species of sea snakes, but there are probably more. All are classified as Protected Marine Species, and two are Critically Endangered.
Sea snake numbers are believed to be in decline, but why this is happening is not well understood. What is certain, is that many are caught as ‘bycatch’ by trawlers and trap fishers; which species and how many are unknown.
Although fishers should record all interactions with sea snakes in a Species of Conservation Interest logbook (SOCI), this doesn’t always happen. For
many fishers, quick removal of the venomous reptiles is an occupational health and safety priority that surpasses recording sea snake data.
This project is working to improve sea snake bycatch reporting, and thus population assessments, by improving training and increasing participation in crew member observer programs (CMOPs) aboard fishing vessels.