Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 24 September 2004

Mr Tony Rundle
Chairman
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
PO Box 7051 Canberra Business Centre
CANBERRA ACT 2610

Dear Mr Rundle

I am writing regarding letters received from Mr Johnson and Mr Ryan of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) dated 7 July 2004 regarding proposed amendments to the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop (BSCZS) Fishery Management Plan 2002 and the Wildlife Trade Operation declaration for the BSCZS Fishery. As you are aware, the fishery and management plan were assessed in 2002 under Parts 4, 10, 13 and 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act) and changes to the management plan have implications for decisions made regarding the fishery.

I understand that, in essence, the proposed amendments to the BSCZS Fishery Management Plan involve a minor editorial correction to the description of the fishery area; allow AFMA to set the dates for the fishing season annually; and increase the minimum legal size for Commercial Scallops.

I consider that the proposed amendments should improve management of the fishery. Providing AFMA with increased flexibility in setting the dates for the fishing season on an annual basis will allow improved timing of the fishing season with the reproductive cycle of scallops, offering protection at critical times such as during spat settlement. Increasing the minimum size limit of Commercial Scallops from 80 mm to 90 mm will allow scallops to undertake two major spawnings before being available to the fishery and this will have a positive affect on recruitment and the long-term ecological sustainability of the fishery.

The Department of the Environment and Heritage's (DEH) assessment continues to be that actions taken in accordance with the management plan are unlikely to have an unacceptable or unsustainable impact on the environment, that the management plan requires that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed and that 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. The plan of management for the BSCZS Fishery continues to provide for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way.

I have considered the amended management plan, AFMA's original submission, the DEH assessment report of June 2002, AFMA's progress in implementing the agreed recommendations arising from the original assessment and advice on the proposed amendments.

I have reviewed the management plan, including all of the proposed amendments, and consider that the amendments are likely to lessen the impacts of the fishery on the environment. On this basis, I am satisfied that the amendments do not alter the outcome of the original assessment of the fishery conducted in 2002.

I commend AFMA, ScallopMAC and industry for the progress made in implementing the 2002 assessment recommendations. In particular, the considerable progress in meeting the requirements relating to bycatch and protected species interactions through the review of the Bycatch Action Plan for the BSCZS Fishery. As the original assessment of the fishery remains unchanged, the recommendations made in 2002 remain largely unchanged and must still be addressed prior to the next review of the fishery. I have agreed to amend the recommendation regarding spatial management in the fishery, to align it with the South-East Regional Marine Planning Process which is being undertaken. I have included the revised spatial management recommendation, along with the other recommendations that remain unchanged, at Attachment A.

Recognising the excellent progress in implementing the assessment recommendations, I also intend to vary the original WTO declaration conditions to bring them into line with other fishery WTOs and to extend the declaration to 21 April 2006. I have included a copy of the revised conditions at Attachment B.

I am satisfied that the amended management plan would satisfy the requirements of Parts 4, 10 and 13 of the Act. Accordingly, I have agreed to endorse the amended BSCZS Fishery Management Plan 2002 under Part 10 and table a Notice of Intent (NOI) to accredit the plan under section 33 of the Act. I have also agreed to accredit the amended plan under the protected species provisions of Part 13 of the Act. I am also satisfied that the amended management plan continues to satisfy the requirements of Part 13A. A new decision under Part 13A of the Act is not required and the 2002 decision will remain valid until 2006, after the WTO declaration has been varied.

I understand that the management plan amendments have not yet been tabled in Parliament. I suggest we aim to table the NOI at the same time as the management plan amendments and align the disallowance periods. I ask that you provide a full copy of the amended management plan as soon as possible as I am required to table this at the same time as the NOI. Upon closure of the NOI disallowance period, and unless disallowed, the management plan will be accredited under section 33 of the Act.

Yours sincerely

SIGNED

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
24 September 2004

Attachment A

Recommendations for the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery September 2004

  1. AFMA to review the current limit reference point applying in the fishery to establish whether it is sufficient to ensure long-term stock viability and allow scallops to fulfill their ecological function.
  2. AFMA to develop and implement actions to build and maintain stocks above the current limit reference point to ensure a higher limit reference point can be implemented if necessary.
  3. AFMA to analyse the vulnerability of the byproduct species, Doughboy Scallops, to overfishing and, if this analysis concludes that Doughboy Scallops are vulnerable to overfishing, actions to remedy this impact will be implemented as a priority.
  4. AFMA, in cooperation with Tasmania and Victoria, to review the current spatial management system within the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery to ensure that it takes account of:
    • High risk impacts of fishing identified through the Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA);
    • The ongoing recovery of overfished stocks;
    • Important juvenile/spawning/refuge grounds identified for target, key byproduct and protected species; and
    • The impacts of fishing on benthic habitats.
  5. This spatial management system will be integrated with the regional marine planning process for the South East region already underway and will ensure that the entire fishery area is taken into account.
  6. The Bycatch Action Plan for the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery includes a number of actions to collect data on bycatch. If an impact on a protected species is indicated, AFMA to develop and implement measures to reduce interactions to a level that does not threaten the conservation status of the impacted species.

Attachment B

Conditions on the declaration of the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery as an Approved Wildlife Trade Operation

September 2004

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery Management Plan 2002.
  2. AFMA to inform DEH of any proposed amendment to the management regime for the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery to enable DEH to evaluate any impact on the ecological sustainability of the fishery.
  3. AFMA to report annually to DEH on:
    1. The extent to which the performance criteria of the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery Management Plan 2002 were met in the year; and
    2. The progress of AFMA in implementing the recommendations for the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery.
  4. This declaration expires on 21 April 2006.