Distribution, fisheries interactions and assessment of threats to Australia’s sea snakes

This project integrated existing sea snake occurrence data, field surveys and trawl interaction data to define the habitat suitability, distribution and area of occurrence of 27 species of sea snakes within the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ). Areas of high diversity and endemism within the North-west and Northern marine region were defined, identifying south-west Gulf of Carpentaria as a region with the highest diversity, with the North-west Shelf region (i.e. Scott Reef and the north-west shoals) as a region of high sea snake endemism. Habitat suitability model spatial outputs were overlayed with annual fishing effort data using Automated Identification System (AIS) data from fishing vessels, to assess sea snake species exposure to trawl fishing. Overlap analysis identified regions along the Pilbara coastline and within the Gulf of Carpentaria as regions with significant overlap between trawl fishing effort and highly suitable habitats for sea snakes. Species with restricted ranges that fell within fishing grounds within the North-west marine region were identified to have high levels of spatial exposure to fishing activities.

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