Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 27 August 2004
The Hon. Henry Palaszczuk MLA
Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries
GPO Box 46
Brisbane QLD 4001
I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Queensland Mud Crab Fishery (QMCF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In April 2003 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment - Queensland Mud Crab Fishery for assessment under the Act.
The submission has been assessed for the purposes of the protected species provisions of Part 13 and the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the Act.
I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the Department of the Environment and Heritage website at: http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.
I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fishery require that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed and the level of interactions with such species in the fishery is not likely to adversely affect the conservation status of protected species or the survival and recovery of listed threatened species. Hence, the management arrangements for the QMCF meet the requirements of Part 13 of the Act and I propose to accredit the management arrangements accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management arrangements are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species in Commonwealth waters.
I am satisfied that the operation of the fishery is consistent with objects of the wildlife trade provisions in Part 13A of the Act. I am also satisfied that it is unlikely to be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon, to which the fishery operation relates, or threaten any relevant ecosystem. The fishery is relatively well managed and operates under an adaptable and precautionary ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. Performance against the Australian Government Guidelines for the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries is adequate, however there are a number of issues that need to be addressed to contain environmental risks in the longer term. Hence, I propose to declare the fishery an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the Act. This declaration would allow the export of product from the fishery for the next three years. I will make the declaration subject to the conditions at Attachment A.
In making my decision I had particular regard to two issues that have the potential to impact on the fishery in the medium term. Firstly, I am aware that there is a significant amount of latent effort in the QMCF. The uptake of large amounts of such latent effort could significantly increase the impact of the fishery on the environment and target stocks if not managed appropriately. I note that an investment warning for the fishery has already been issued by DPI&F as a first step in addressing latent effort in this fishery and encourage increased efforts to remove latent effort before the introduction of the management plan. Secondly, I am aware that the recreational harvest of mud crabs is substantial and that existing management measures may not adequately control recreational effort and environmental risks. I strongly urge DPI&F to conduct a review of existing management measures to control the recreational harvest of this highly sought after inshore species that is already subject to other anthropogenic pressures from large coastal populations.
The management regime aims to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing and for fishing operations to be managed to minimise their impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem. On balance, the fishery is being managed in an ecologically sustainable manner and is working to address existing problems and to minimise environmental risks.
I commend DPI&F for the implementation of a conservative minimum size limit and protection of all female mud crabs and welcome increasing efforts to improve compliance with management measures. You should also be aware that in making my decisions I had particular regard to commitments made in the submission, such as further efforts to address potential uptake of latent effort in the fishery and the development of a management plan to clearly define the management objectives and arrangements for the future management of the QMCF. These will be important considerations in the next review of the fishery.
While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that DPI&F is committed to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive steps in some areas. Officers from our two departments have discussed key areas requiring ongoing and increased attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on addressing key issues, to be implemented before the next Commonwealth review of the fishery. The recommendations (Attachment B) have been an important factor in my decision to declare the fishery a WTO and I look forward to receiving your confirmation that they will be implemented.
I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment and I look forward to reviewing the remainder of the Queensland managed fisheries.
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
13 August 2004
Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Queensland Mud Crab Fishery
- Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Queensland Mud Crab Fishery management regime in force under the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994 and Fisheries Regulation 1995;
- The Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any intended amendments to the Queensland Mud Crab Fishery management regime that may affect sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem;
- Reports to be produced and presented to the Department of the Environment and Heritage annually, and to include:
- information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of DPI&F in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Queensland Mud Crab Fishery 2004;
- A description of the status of the fishery and catch and effort information;
- A statement of the performance of the fishery against objectives, performance indicators and measures once developed; and
- Research undertaken or completed relevant to the fishery.
Recommendations to the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F)] on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland Mud Crab Fishery (QMCF)
The QMCF is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery.
The assessment recognises that the minimum legal size limit and prohibition on the take of female crab are conservative and data collection and monitoring of fishery dependent data on the target species is sound. The assessment also notes the commitment to develop a management plan for the fishery by 2006, which may significantly change management of the fishery and mud crab resource. The conservative minimum size limit, protection of all female mud crabs, increasing efforts to improve compliance with management measures and actions to address potential uptake of latent effort, outlined in the Submission, show evidence of DPI&F's commitment to the ecological sustainability of the fishery.
The assessment had particular regard to a number of commitments made in the Submission and in DPI&F's response to public comments. Specifically, further efforts to address potential uptake of latent effort in the fishery, the review of management measures to control recreational harvest of mud crabs and the development of a management plan to clearly define the management objectives and arrangements for the future management of the QMCF.
While the fishery is relatively well managed, a number of risks and uncertainties that must be managed to ensure that their impacts are minimised have been identified. The following recommendations aim to address these risks and uncertainties. DPI&F should action these recommendations before the next review in 2007 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.
- DPI&F to inform DEH of any intended amendments to the management arrangements that may affect sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem.
- DPI&F to continue to actively engage with the Northern Territory and New South Wales in pursuit of collaborative or complementary management and research of shared mud crab stocks.
- As part of the management planning process, DPI&F to develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for target, bycatch, protected species and impacts on the ecosystem.
- DPI&F to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the performance measures once developed. Within 3 months of becoming aware of a performance measure not being met, DPI&F to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.
- DPI&F to develop a compliance strategy for the mud crab fishery. The strategy will explicitly address the following issues and provide for the periodic review of the effectiveness of the strategy:
- Catch and effort data validation
- Compliance with commercial pot number restrictions;
- Compliance with restrictions on the take of female and undersize crabs;
- The potential for Queensland harvested female and undersize crabs to be laundered in other jurisdictions with different management measures;
- The appropriateness and effectiveness of existing recreational bag and size limits;
- The 'black market' sale of recreationally caught crabs; and
- The occurrence of crab pot 'drying'/stranding.
- From 2005, DPI&F to report publicly on the status of the fishery on an annual basis, including explicit reporting against each performance measure once developed.
- DPI&F to develop a system to ensure that catch data collected in compulsory logbooks is validated on an ongoing basis and to investigate methods for documenting and validating effort in the fishery.
- DPI&F to develop and implement separate management arrangements for the Gulf of Carpentaria mud crab stock by 30 June 2005.
- DPI&F to develop a strategy to remove or substantially reduce the amount of latent effort in the fishery, which includes clearly defined management actions linked to specific timeframes, by 31 December 2004. DPI&F to implement the strategy prior to the introduction of the management plan.
- As part of the management planning process, DPI&F to review existing management measures designed to control mud crab harvest by recreational fishers to ensure that these measures are appropriate, adequately constrain recreational effort and minimise impacts on bycatch and protected species. Should the review indicate that existing measures are not appropriate DPI&F will develop new measures in a timely manner.
- DPI&F to identify fishery areas at risk of overfishing within two years. DPI&F to undertake independent surveys in these areas with a view to detecting any significant changes in crab abundance and take appropriate management action to address resource sustainability concerns.
- DPI&F to develop a system for the collection and monitoring of information on discarded undersize and female mud crab and key bycatch species sufficient to enable identification of long-term trends in bycatch and discards. In the event that catch levels of any bycatch species or discards change, DPI&F will investigate suitable management responses.
- Within 1 year, to support the implementation of the Species of Conservation Interest logbooks, DPI&F to ensure that an education program for fishers, both recreational and commercial, is developed and implemented, to promote the importance of protected species protection and accurate incident reporting.
- DPI&F to conduct a risk assessment to determine the likely impact of protected species interactions in the fishery (including the recreational sector) within two years. In the event that a species is found to be at risk, DPI&F will investigate measures to mitigate interaction with the species, to ensure that any risks to protected species can be minimised.
- DPI&F investigate the effects of ghost fishing by lost or discarded mud crab apparatus within two years.