Sustainable Fisheries Section, March 2004
About the information sheet
The EPBC Act requires that all Commonwealth managed fisheries undergo strategic environmental impact assessment before new management arrangements are bought into effect, and that all fisheries with an export component undergo assessment to determine the extent to which management arrangement will ensure that the fishery is managed in an ecologically sustainable way. The assessments are conducted by the Sustainable Fisheries Section.
The depletion of fish stocks and the ecological sustainability of global fisheries are issues of international concern. While the status of Australia's fish stocks is generally better than elsewhere in the world, there is still evidence of overfishing and a high level of uncertainty 1. The Australian Government has responded to the ongoing concerns about the environmental impacts of fishing and the risk of over exploitation of marine resources by incorporating ecological sustainability requirements into Australian Government environment and fisheries legislation.
Legislative changes, including the implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), mean the Australian Government now plays a stronger role in assessing the environmental performance of Australian fisheries. The EPBC Act requires that:
- all Commonwealth managed fisheries undergo strategic environmental impact assessment before new management arrangements are brought into effect; and
- all fisheries with an export component undergo assessment to determine the extent to which management arrangements will ensure the fishery is managed in an ecologically sustainable way.
Management of fisheries remains firmly the responsibility of the State, Territory and Commonwealth fisheries management agencies. The legislative amendments simply require independent assessment of the environmental performance of fisheries management arrangements, to ensure that, over time, all fisheries are both productive and ecologically sustainable.
The assessments are conducted by the Department of the Environment and Heritage's (DEH) Sustainable Fisheries Section (SFS) on behalf of the Australian Government. Submissions are prepared by the fishery management agency against the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries (available from the SFS or at http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/publications/guidelines.html). The Guidelines outline principles and objectives designed to ensure a strategic and transparent way of evaluating ecological sustainability.