Heard Island and MacDonald Islands Fishery

Mininsterial Decision
David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 15 October 2002

Dr Wendy Craik
Chair
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
Box 7051 Canberra Mail Centre
Canberra ACT 2610

Dear Dr Craik

In December 2001 the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) submitted the documents - assessment report - Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) Fishery and the draft Heard Island and MacDonald Islands Fishery Management Plan 2001, for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The report from AFMA had been prepared in accordance with the Agreement reached between AFMA and the previous Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill. With the draft Plan of Management for the Heard Island and MacDonald Islands Fishery (the HIMI fishery), the report has been assessed against the Terms of Reference for the Environmental Assessment of the HIMI Fishery, including the Commonwealth's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries, for the purposes of Part 10 of the EPBC Act. The fishery was also assessed in accordance with the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act, to determine whether the plan of management should be accredited for the purposes of the protected species provisions of Part 13 of the Act.

I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the EA website at: http://www.ea.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

I am satisfied that AFMA has provided an adequate report on the current and likely impacts of activities taken in accordance with the proposed management plan for the HIMI fishery. I am satisfied that actions taken in accordance with the management plan are unlikely to have an unacceptable or unsustainable impact on the environment. Accordingly, I am prepared to endorse the draft HIMI Fishery Management Plan 2001 for the purposes of Part 10 of the EPBC Act.

To accredit an endorsed management plan under s33 of the EPBC Act, I must be satisfied, among other things, that the endorsed plan, and the law under which it is, or will be, in force, meet the criteria prescribed in the regulations. The specific regulations required for a section 33 declaration of an endorsed fishery are to be tabled as soon as possible.

I have not sought amendment of the proposed plan and my endorsement of the Plan will allow AFMA to determine the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery Management Plan 2001 under the Fisheries Management Act 1991, and maintain its timetable for implementation. I intend to lodge the required notice of intent to accredit the plan of management under section 33 of the EPBC Act when Parliament resumes.

I am also satisfied that, for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions in Part 13A of the EPBC Act, the plan of management for the HIMI fishery provides for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I am accordingly prepared to amend the list of exempt native specimens established under s303DB of the EPBC Act to incorporate all products from this fishery, including Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari), fishmeal product and the three permitted non-target byproduct species for a period of five years.

I am satisfied that it is unlikely that fishing operations conducted in accordance with the management arrangements will adversely affect the conservation status of protected species, or affect the survival and recovery of threatened species. I am satisfied that the proposed management arrangements for the HIMI fishery plan meet requires the requirements of Part 13 of the Act 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. While the level of interaction is assessed as low, to provide increased certainty for those operating in the fishery, I will accredit the plan accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the Plan are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species.

The proposed management plan for the HIMI fishery provides a framework that meets the Commonwealth's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fishery is managed under a comprehensive, adaptable, precautionary and ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. I commend the incorporation of sound performance measures, performance criteria and environmental requirements of individuals operating in the fishery. I believe these elements of the management regime are crucial to the overall environmental performance of the fishery. The combination of management arrangements, data gathering and proposed research provides confidence in the fishery's ability to maintain relatively low bycatch levels, minimise interaction with protected species and manage impacts on the wider ecosystem.

It is important to note that in arriving at my decision I have had particular regard to the stock assessment process and its ability to take account of removals by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. The impact of IUU fishing on the Patagonian toothfish stocks is an issue of international concern, with potentially serious ramifications for the HIMI Fishery. It is my judgement that the management arrangements for the fishery incorporate best known practices in addressing this issue. Also of significant consideration is the proposed establishment of the HIMI Marine Reserve. The Marine Reserve would further reduce the risk of widespread impact on the HIMI benthic communities, provide reference areas for ongoing impact monitoring and afford added protection to land-based predators and protected species. I believe that commitment to the maintenance of current management arrangements and the continued assessment of the impact on non-target species and the environment are essential to the ongoing ecologically sustainable management of the fishery.

There are some limited environmental risks associated with this fishery, however I believe that AFMA are addressing these risks adequately. I strongly support the range of management initiatives currently in train aimed at minimizing the environmental impacts of fishing in the HIMI Fishery. Completion of current management, research and bycatch mitigation activities should be a priority. The attached document outlines a number of key areas requiring ongoing attention, focusing on ensuring continuation of good management practices, which I understand that officials in both our agencies have agreed. I have not sought amendment of the proposed plan of management.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this task and I look forward to reviewing the remainder of the Commonwealth managed fisheries.

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

David Kemp
15 October 2002


Recommendations to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority relating to further actions in management of the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery

  • AFMA, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, is investigating the extent to which the HIMI Fishery and neighboring Island groups, including Iles Kerguelen, share a single, or straddling, Patagonian toothfish stock. Completion of this work should be a high priority. In the event that a shared, or straddling, stock is confirmed, AFMA should ensure that the HIMI Fishery stock assessment of the species will take into account removals from neighboring areas with which the HIMI stock is shared.
  • AFMA, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, is conducting risk assessments of sleeper shark, skates and rays. Completion of this work should be a high priority. Investigation of potential bycatch mitigation strategies in conjunction with this research should be undertaken. In the event that significant risks are identified, AFMA should implement appropriate mitigation measures.
  • Prior to the introduction of longlining in the HIMI Fishery:
    • suitable seabird bycatch mitigation measures will be developed in accordance with the Threat Abatement Plan, for implementation by AFMA;
    • AFMA will conduct an evaluation, limited to assessing the deleterious effects of longlining on the environment; and
    • approval for the introduction of longlining from the Minister for the Environment and Heritage will be obtained.
  • AFMA is monitoring seal interactions, with a view to determining if seals are beginning to habituate to the fishing vessels. In the event that seal interactions increase, AFMA should review existing mitigation measures and implement appropriate responses in a timely manner.