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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
3 June 2001
Australia's reputation as a world leader in marine conservation has been further enhanced with the commencement of a ground-breaking environmental assessment process for Commonwealth fisheries.
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill announced today that the Heard and McDonald Islands Fishery and the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery will be the first Commonwealth fisheries to be formally assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
"The EPBC Act provides an environmental assessment process for Commonwealth fisheries that is world's best practice. The assessments address impacts on target species and broader impacts on the whole ecosystem."
The process for the Heard and McDonald Islands Fishery and the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery was initiated this week with the release of draft terms of reference for the environmental assessments.
"There are important environmental issues to be addressed in both of these fisheries. In the Central Zone fishery, there have been recent sharp declines in catches of scallops. The Heard and McDonald Islands fishery, where patagonian toothfish is the main catch, is situated in the waters off these world heritage-listed islands."
Senator Hill indicated that the results of the environmental assessment process will help deliver better outcomes for the environment and the fishing industry.
"By ensuring our fisheries are ecologically sustainable, we will ensure they continue to generate wealth and employment for Australians. Marine fisheries are in the top five export earners for Australia, with a gross value of over $2 billion in 1999-2000."
Commonwealth fisheries are managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).
"The recommendations arising from the environmental assessment process will assist AFMA in the design and implementation of its management arrangements. Successful completion of the assessment process will enable these management arrangements to be accredited as ecologically sustainable.
The Chair of AFMA, Dr Wendy Craik, said the assessments were another example of AFMA embracing environmental concerns.
"We are getting on with the business of environmentally responsible fisheries management," she said.
Public comments on the draft terms of reference can be submitted until 27 June 2001.
A draft assessment, when prepared, will also be released for public comment.
Copies of the draft terms of reference can be obtained at www.environment.gov.au/marine/fisheries/assessment/index.html
Sunday, June 3, 2001
Contact: Belinda Huppatz 0419 258 364