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Threatened Species Scientific Committee Annual Report 2005-2006

Department of the Environment and Heritage, November 2006

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee was established under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Over 2005-2006, the Committee has continued to advise the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage on the amendment and updating of the national lists of threatened species, threatened ecological communities and key threatening processes, together with the making or adoption of recovery plans and threat abatement plans.

Membership

The membership of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee from 1 July 2005 to September 2005 was as follows: Associate Professor Robert (Bob) Beeton (Chair); Dr Susan Briggs; Prof Gordon Grigg; Dr Libby Mattiske; Dr Pamela Parker; Mr Guy Fitzhardinge; Dr Graham Harris; Prof Robert (Bob) Kearney; Dr Rosemary Purdie; and Dr John Woinarski.

In September 2005, the membership of Dr Susan Briggs and Dr Pamela Parker ended, and Associate Professor Peter Harrison and Dr Andrea Taylor were appointed as new members.

Meetings

The Committee held four meetings in 2005-2006. Three meetings were held in Canberra, on 6-8 September 2005, 29 November - 1 December 2005 and 30-31 May 2006. One meeting was held in Hobart on 7-9 March 2006.

Highlights of 2005-06 included:

Advice on the amendment and updating of the lists of threatened species, threatened ecological communities, and key threatening processes

In 2005-2006, there were 15 public nominations for threatened species, six nominations for threatened ecological communities and five nominations for key threatening processes received under the EPBC Act. In addition to new nominations, the Committee reconsidered three ecological communities which had previously been found ineligible for listing.

The Committee also considered 57 species through the Species Information Partnerships with various state and territory governments (see details under strategic issues section).

The Committee considered preliminary advices for 18 species, five ecological communities and three key threatening processes nominations. The Committee finalised its advice on 20 species nominations, two ecological community nominations and one key threatening process nomination.

The Committee's advice on 14 species nominations, two ecological communities and one key threatening process was provided to the Minister in 2005-2006. There were nine amendments to the list of threatened species, six amendments to the list of ecological communities and one amendment to the list of key threatening processes. Amendments to the list of threatened species comprised four new listings, one transfer to a lower category of threat and four species being delisted as they were no longer recognised as a distinct species . Amendments to the list of threatened ecological communities comprised five new listings and one delisting. The delisted ecological community, Grassy White Box Woodlands, was subsumed into the newly listed ecological community, White Box - Yellow Box - Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands.

Table 1: Threatened Species Scientific Committee assessment of nominations from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 1
Group Listed at 30/6/05 2 Nominations recieved Prelim. advice Listing advice Ministerial decisions Changes to the list Listed at 30/6/06 2
Final Committee recommendations public nominations Species Information Partnerships Advice to the Minister
Invertebrates 15 10 10 0 3 2 2 2 17
Fish 39 0 0 9 0 2 1 0 39
Frogs 31 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 31
Reptiles 50 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 50
Birds 129 0 2 1 1 1 1 1 130
Mammals 116 2 3 1 1 2 2 1 117
All Animals 380 13 16 14 4 8 7 4 384
Plants 1302 2 2 6 53 6 6 5 1300
Species 1682 15 18 20 57 14 13 9 1684
Added to list               4  
Deleted               4  
Transferred               1  
Rejected               4  
Ecological Communities 32 6 5 2 N/A 2 6 6 36
Added to list               5  
Deleted               1  
Transferred               0  
Rejected               0  
Key Threatening Processes 16 5 3 1 N/A 1 1 1 17
Added to list               1  
Deleted               0  
Transferred               0  
Rejected               0  
Total items 1730 26 26 23 57 17 20 16 1737

1 Apparent anomalies between the numbers of nominations received, advices finalised by the Committee, advices provided to the Minister and amendments to the lists can be attributed to the continuing assessment and processing of nominations across financial years.

2 Covers all listed categories.

Advice on the making and adoption of recovery plans and threat abatement plans

Recovery Plans

In 2005-2006, the Committee finalised its recommendations on 50 draft recovery plans, covering 90 species, and two ecological communities listed as threatened under the EPBC Act. Of the 50 recovery plans recommended, 46 were state recovery plans that the Committee recommended for adoption under the EPBC Act. These included recovery plans from the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia.

Wildlife Conservation Plans

A wildlife conservation plan sets out the research and management actions necessary to support survival of a migratory, marine or cetacean species listed under the EPBC Act, which are not considered threatened but would benefit from a nationally coordinated approach to conservation.

In 2002, the Committee agreed that a Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds was a high priority and in 2004-05 the Committee considered the first Wildlife Conservation Plan developed under the Act, covering 36 migratory shorebirds species. In 2005-2006 the Committee recommended the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds for making by the Minister. The Minister agreed to the Committee's recommendation and the plan was released in February 2006.

Threat Abatement Plans

The Committee considered two new Threat Abatement Plans (TAPs) in 2005-2006:

The chytrid fungus and Tramp Ant TAPs were released for public comment and revised in light of stakeholder contributions. Both plans were recommended by the Committee and approved for making by the Minister.

In accordance with the EPBC Act requirement for five yearly review of threat abatement plans, reviews were undertaken for:

In 2005-2006 the Committee recommended the revised longline fishing TAP for making by the Minister. The plan was approved by the Minister on 18 July 2006. The Committee is expected to consider revised plans for the remaining TAPs in 2006-07.

In 2005-2006 the Committee recommended to the Minister that a Threat Abatement Plan be prepared for the key threatening process 'Predation by exotic rats on Australian offshore islands of less than 1000 km2 (100,000 ha)'. The Minister agreed to the Committee's recommendation and the Department of the Environment and Heritage has commenced preliminary work on this plan.

Strategic Issues

Throughout 2005-06 the Committee discussed several strategic issues within its terms of reference, including the assessment of translocated populations, conservation of marine species, investigating mechanisms for strategic assessment of threatening processes, and effective solutions to the challenges of listing threatened ecological communities.

Defining and Assessing the Conservation Status of Threatened Ecological Communities

Following a workshop in Orange on 7 and 8 June 2004 with range of experts from universities, CSIRO, state government departments, the farming community and the conservation movement, a new approach to listing threatened ecological communities was developed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee. The new approach was agreed to in-principle by the Minister. It gives full protection under the EPBC Act to the remaining intact components of a particular ecological community, that are delineated by clear and simple condition thresholds. Full protection under the Act does not extend to those components that are degraded. However components which are amenable to remediation to improve their state or help conserve some of their key ecological functions will be identified as suitable for Natural Resource Management investments such as funding through the Natural Heritage Trust.

A key process in implementing the new approach was the introduction of technical workshops in which experts familiar with each nominated ecological community meet to develop a clear definition and condition thresholds. During the year, the use of technical workshops was consolidated and refined to allow for public consultation on the workshop outcomes in conjunction with the nomination. Over the course of 2005-2006, The Department of the Environment and Heritage held eight technical workshops to cover 12 nominated ecological communities. The application of the new approach through technical workshops has been a success and the workshops have now become an indispensable component of the ecological community nomination assessment process.

Answering Recovery Planning Questions

A focus for the Committee in 2005-2006 was to consider better ways to determine the effect recovery planning has had in protecting species or ecological communities. This is particularly important as an increasing number of recovery plans become due for their 5 year review. By using the more effective and efficient recovery planning process for threatened species and ecological communities, developed in 2004-2005, the type on information needed will be incorporated into the implementation actions.

Species Information Partnerships

The aim of the Species Information Partnerships with the state and territory governments is to move towards a more truly national list of threatened species that is supported by the most up to date information available. Such a list will reduce duplication of assessment activities and allow for more targeted expenditure of limited conservation resources. Strong working relationships between the states and territories and the Australian Government also facilitate the best possible conservation outcomes for threatened species as information is shared and recovery and threat abatement activities are undertaken in partnership.

During 2005-06, the South Australian, Tasmanian, Western Australian and Northern Territory governments provided information on endemic species as part of Species Information Partnership agreements. Many of these endemic species were assessed by the Committee for eligibility for listing as threatened under the EPBC Act.

To continue building on the Species Information Partnerships formed with the Tasmanian and South Australian governments, the Committee met with representatives from the South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage in December 2005, and the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water in March 2006, to discuss threatened species conservation. The Committee will continue to seek opportunities to develop partnerships with other states and territories in the future.

Strategic relationships

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee is committed to ongoing learning and continues to take a consultative approach to its statutory roles and responsibilities and strategic interests.

The Committee continued to consult with scientific experts and interested parties, including non-government organisations, community and industry groups on new nominations of threatened species, ecological communities and key threatening processes received under the EPBC Act.

In 2005-2006, the Committee continued to build relationships with state and territory government agencies and scientific committees. The meeting held in Hobart in March 2006, allowed the Committee to meet with representatives from the Tasmanian Scientific Advisory Committee, staff from the Department of Primary Industry and Water and other key stakeholders.