Andrew McNee, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, February 2006
The Hon Jon Ford MLC
Minister for Fisheries
14th Floor, May Holman Centre
32 St George's Terrace
PERTH WA 6000
I am writing to you as the Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage regarding the assessment of the Western Australian South Coast Trawl Fishery (SCTF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In November 2005 the SCTF was declared an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) for a 3 month period, subject to a number of conditions. This declaration expires on 28 February 2006. The fishery was also accredited under the protected species provisions of Part 13 of the EPBC Act.
Due to the limited management arrangements in place for the fishery, which only included limited entry, a defined fishery area and a three month seasonal closure in a small part of the fishery, I was not in a position to make a long term decision in relation to the SCTF as it was currently managed.
I understand that a document Management of the Proposed South Coast Trawl Fishery – a Discussion Paper (the Discussion Paper), which proposed a number of management arrangements for the SCTF, was released for public comment in 2005. I consider that the proposed management arrangements contained within the Discussion Paper, such as setting byproduct trigger limits, defining the number of hours that can be fished under each permit when targeting finfish, limiting the number of finfish operators in the first year of the Interim Management Plan, implementation of a total seasonal closure in the fishery, and introducing a range of area closures will provide a sound basis for sustainable management of the fishery. DEH supports the approach proposed in the Discussion Paper and I look forward to receiving confirmation that you have approved the changes to the management regime for the SCTF.
On the basis of the proposed management regimes being implemented in a timely manner, I am prepared to extend the current WTO for the SCTF for a further two and a half years, until 31 August 2008. A key condition of this WTO approval will be that an interim management plan, including the commitments made in the Discussion Paper, is developed and implemented within one year of export approval being granted. A copy of all the conditions that will be attached to this declaration is provided at Attachment A. Please note that if any condition is not met, the Minister is compelled under the EPBC Act to revoke the declaration.
The accreditation under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, granted in November 2005, will continue to apply to the fishery.
DEH’s assessment of the fishery has identified a range of further improvements to supplement those proposed in the Discussion Paper. 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 Australian Government 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.
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
24 February 2006
Conditions on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the Western Australian South Coast Trawl Fishery
- Within one year, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia to develop and implement a formal interim management plan for the South Coast Trawl Fishery that includes the management commitments contained within the Discussion Paper Management of the Proposed South Coast Trawl Fishery – a Discussion Paper, and improves the ecological sustainability of the fishery.
- Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the management regime in force under the Western Australian Fish Resources Management Act 1994.
- The Department of Fisheries, Western Australia to advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any material change to the South Coast Trawl Fishery’s legislated management regime that could affect the criteria on which Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 decisions are based, within three months of that change being made.
- Annual reporting on the following:
- progress on implementation of the recommendations;
- annual catch and catch-per-unit-effort trends and data;
- performance against objectives, performance indicators and measures once developed; and
- research undertaken or completed relevant to the fishery.
Recommendations to the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Western Australia South Coast Trawl Fishery (SCTF)
The SCTF is a relatively small scale fishery and the management arrangements proposed within the paper Management of the Proposed South Coast Trawl Fishery – a Discussion Paper (the Discussion Paper) are likely to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. Management measures currently include limited entry, a defined fishery area and a three month seasonal closure in a small part of the fishery. The commitments made in the Discussion Paper will improve the capacity of DFWA to control the level of harvest in the fishery by setting byproduct trigger limits, defining the number of hours that can be fished under each permit when targeting finfish, limiting the number of finfish operators in the first year of the Interim Management Plan, implementation of a total trawling prohibition on the south coast between
1 December and 30 April each year, and introducing a range of area closures for scallop trawling and finfish trawling. Stocks are not currently overfished and the combination of old and new management arrangements are likely to provide the basis to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that will not lead to over-fishing.
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. DFWA should action these recommendations before the next review in 2008 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.
- DFWA to advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any material change to the SCTF’s legislated management regime that could affect the criteria on which Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 decisions are based, within three months of that change being made.
- The Ecologically Sustainable Development Report for the SCTF, including all performance measures, responses and information requirements to be incorporated into the management regime and decision making process.
- DFWA to ensure, where appropriate, that any relevant indigenous, conservation and recreational interests in the SCTF are considered through consultative mechanisms.
- DFWA, within 1 year, to incorporate into the management regime for the SCTF specific objectives, performance indicators and performance measures for major byproduct species or species groups, and to review the existing performance measures and indicators for target species. DFWA, within 1 year, to also incorporate into the management regime, an objective to minimise protected/listed species interactions, to minimise or maintain at sustainable levels the take of other non-retained species and to minimise impacts on the marine environment.
- By mid 2007, DFWA to conduct a compliance risk assessment for the SCTF paying particular attention to compliance with seasonal and area closures and effort restrictions. DFWA to also develop a compliance strategy for the fishery to address these risks.
- From 2007, DFWA, in its Annual State of the Fisheries Report, to report on the performance of the SCTF against performance measures that relate to the sustainability of the fishery, once developed.
- DFWA to work with relevant jurisdictions, particularly the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, to actively pursue consistent and/or complementary management arrangements for, and research into, shared target and byproduct species stocks.
- Within one year, DFWA to review the current logbook recording requirements and ensure that catch and effort data for target and byproduct species is collected at an appropriate spatial and temporal scale and differentiated for each fishing method permitted in the SCTF.
- DFWA to develop and implement a robust system to validate catch and effort logbook data in the SCTF.
- Within one year, DFWA to undertake a risk assessment for target and byproduct species and bycatch that provides a basis for management decisions which are precautionary and recognise the uncertainty and level of risk. DFWA will then develop a strategic research plan for the SCTF that identifies research information needs and priorities to meet the management information, stock assessment and performance needs of the fishery in keeping with the small size and low risk of the fishery. DFWA to regularly review the status of target and byproduct stocks and develop appropriate management responses to reduce risks as necessary.
- Within one year, DFWA to develop a harvest strategy for scallops taken in the SCTF that is adequately precautionary in terms of spatial management.
- Within two years, DFWA to develop and implement a system capable of monitoring changes in the composition and quantity of bycatch in the SCTF.
- Within eighteen months, DFWA to develop a system to allow for the collection of data on protected/listed species interactions by fishers in the SCTF. DFWA to develop and implement an education program for fishers to promote the importance of protected species protection and accurate incident reporting.
- Should new information determine that the fishery is having significant interactions with any endangered, threatened or protected species, DFWA to develop appropriate measures to mitigate those interactions. Measures should be implemented within 12 months of the information becoming available.