Tasmanian Native Oyster Fisher - Letter 2004

Ministerial Decision
Mark Flanigan, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, April 2004

Hon Steve Kons MHA
Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment
Parliamentary Office
Salamanca Place
Hobart TAS 7000

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Tasmanian Native Oyster Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In September 2003 the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (DPIWE) submitted the document entitled 'Application for Declaration as an Approved Wildlife Trade Operation under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - Export of Native Oysters (Ostrea angasi) from Tasmanian waters' for assessment under the Act.

The submission has been assessed for the purposes of 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 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 due to the developmental nature of the fishery and vulnerability of the species to overfishing there are some 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 a number of risks that must be managed to ensure that their impacts are minimised. These risks included the limited distribution of substantial beds of the native oyster (Ostrea angasi) in Tasmanian waters as a result of overfishing in the late 19th century, the rapid deterioration in the historical fishery and lack of full recovery suggesting that the species is vulnerable to overfishing. There is also the risk of significant change and expansion of the fishery in the case of market demand increasing.

DEH recognises that the management arrangements for this fishery are still in a developmental stage and DPIWE has made considerable progress in developing sound management arrangements. DEH commends DPIWE for its responsible attitude to the development of the fishery and its recognition of the importance of maintaining a limited take, due to the restricted distribution of commercial quantities of native oysters, and the history of overexploitation of the species in Tasmanian waters.

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 minimise environmental risks.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that DPIWE is committed to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive steps. 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 DEH 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 Tasmanian managed fisheries.

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

Mark Flanigan
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

April 2004


Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Tasmanian Native Oyster Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Tasmanian Native Oyster Fishery management regime in force under the Tasmanian Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995.
  2. Reports to be produced and presented to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage annually, and to include:
    1. A description of the status of the fishery, including catch and effort information and results of the annual fishery appraisal undertaken by DPIWE;
    2. Results of any research or surveys undertaken within the year; and
    3. An outline of progress in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Tasmanian Native Oyster Fishery 2004.

Recommendations to the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (DPIWE) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Tasmanian Native Oyster Fishery

The Tasmanian Native Oyster Fishery (TNOF) is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery.

DEH recognises that the management arrangements for this fishery are still in a developmental stage and that DPIWE has made considerable progress in developing sound management arrangements. DEH commends DPIWE for its responsible attitude to the development of the fishery and its recognition of the importance of maintaining a limited take, due to the restricted distribution of commercial quantities of native oysters, and the history of overexploitation of the species in Tasmanian waters.

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. DPIWE should action these recommendations before the next review in 2007 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendation 1. DPIWE to inform DEH of any changes to the management arrangements that may impact on the sustainability of the Native Oyster Fishery.

Recommendation 2. DPIWE to develop and implement a precautionary reference point and corresponding management response, sufficient to trigger a response to major changes in harvest of the target species.

Recommendation 2. DPIWE to conduct a re-survey of the stock structure and density of native oysters on the main beds in Georges Bay every two years.