Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010
Freshwater sawfish is listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) with the annotation "for the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable aquaria for primarily conservation purposes".
At the time of listing (2007), the Australian Parliament Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommended the Australian Government monitor and assess the impact of trade in freshwater sawfish to determine whether the current listing, with annotation, provides sufficient protection for the species. Since the time of listing, a number of studies have been completed. Based on this improved understanding, new measures providing further protection for freshwater sawfish are proposed.
Stricter domestic measure
CITES recognises the right of Parties to adopt stricter trade control measures for a listed species than is required under the Convention, called a 'stricter domestic measure'. In Australia, this can be done by way of a declaration under section 303CB the EPBC Act.
It is proposed that a stricter domestic measure be introduced that has the effect of treating freshwater sawfish as if it is listed in Appendix I of CITES. This would impose some additional restrictions on trade, but it would remain possible to export live freshwater sawfish for purposes such as research, education, or conservation breeding.
New non-detriment finding
Prior to approving an export permit CITES requires that, where the export of an Appendix I or II listed species is proposed, the State of export must determine that the activity will not be detrimental to, or contribute to, trade which is detrimental to the survival of the species (known as a 'non-detriment finding'). This obligation is implemented through the EPBC Act (paragraph 303CG (3)(a)).
A draft non-detriment finding document for freshwater sawfish has been prepared and reviewed by the CSIRO. The final document will inform decisions on applications under the EPBC Act for permits to export freshwater sawfish. The document will replace a previous non-detriment finding document produced in 2007, which no longer reflects the current state of understanding of the status of freshwater sawfish.
The new non-detriment finding document draws on the most current research and understanding, including the outcomes of a Freshwater Sawfish Expert Review Committee that reported in June 2009 and other studies referenced in the draft new non-detriment finding document. These studies point to the need for a precautionary approach to be applied, as is required under the EPBC Act. There is clear evidence that that the species is at risk, and that it is not possible to determine with a reasonable level of certainty that harvest for the purposes of international trade would not be detrimental to the survival or recovery of the species. The impact of other cumulative pressures on populations such as commercial, illegal, Indigenous and recreational fishing and habitat modification must also be considered.
- Non-detriment finding for the freshwater sawfish, Pristis microdon - Consultation draft (PDF - 112 KB) | (RTF - 530 KB)
Opportunity to comment
The opportunity to comment on the proposed stricter domestic measure and draft non-detriment finding is open to all members of the public. Comments can be made by close of business AEST 31 August 2010 and should be sent to:
Freshwater Sawfish Management Consultation
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
PO Box 787, Canberra ACT 2601