Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Campbell, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 21 December 2006

Senator the Hon Eric Abetz
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Minister

I am writing to you about the assessment of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).  As you would be aware, a strategic assessment for the SESSF under the EPBC Act was completed in 2003. As a result of that assessment, the former Minister for the Environment and Heritage, the Hon David Kemp MP, declared the SESSF a Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) until 22 December 2006. He also accredited the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003 under section 33 of the EPBC Act (in relation to actions affecting the environment in a Commonwealth marine area) and under the relevant protected species provisions of Part 13 of the EPBC Act.

In September 2006, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) submitted a document for consideration of a further declaration of a WTO under Part 13A of the EPBC Act.  The AFMA report, additional information sought and previous submissions have been assessed for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act. The assessment also took account of measures being developed for SESSF in response to the Ministerial Direction to AFMA in December 2005 by the then Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald, to improve the sustainability of Commonwealth fisheries.

I acknowledge the sound progress made by AFMA to improve the ecologically sustainable management arrangements of the SESSF and the commitment to further improve these arrangements through actions underway in response to the above Ministerial Direction. This includes the development of a harvest strategy framework and a range of spatial management measures for the SESSF and the commitment to implement fishery independent surveys programs and halve bycatch across the fishery.

I also note there are still sustainability concerns with the fishery, including the number of overfished species and continuing interactions with some protected species, along with outstanding commitments that need to be addressed from the previous strategic assessment such as management of high risk species and implementation of a new SESSF Bycatch Action Plan to facilitate bycatch reduction.

While these remain environmental risks for the fishery, I believe that AFMA is committed to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive steps in some areas. I have therefore attached a number of specific conditions to the new WTO for the fishery, along with supporting recommendations (Attachment A ), to ensure these issues continue to be addressed in the short term.
 
I consider that, subject to the implementation of conditions and recommendations set out in Attachment A , the SESSF 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 in the short term to medium term. Hence I propose to declare the SESSF an approved WTO for a further three year period, to expire on 22 December 2009. Please note that the WTO declaration is subject to the conditions set out in Attachment A and that if any condition is not met, I am compelled to revoke the WTO declaration.

While I am prepared at this stage to declare the fishery a WTO, you should note that, given concerns with the number of overfished or potentially overfished species in the fishery and the nominations of species for listing under the EPBC Act such as school shark, eastern gemfish and deepwater dogfish, I will need to further consider the appropriate conservation provisions to apply to individual species under the EPBC Act.

I propose to continue the inclusion of the SESSF on the List of Exempt Native Specimens so that exporters will not require EPBC Act export permits. The fishery would continue to operate as a WTO for the period of the declaration and all WTO conditions would continue to apply. The existing accreditation under Part 13 of the EPBC Act will also continue to apply to the fishery.

I look forward to being advised of AFMA’s endorsement of the new WTO conditions and supporting recommendations for the SESSF.

I have attached for your information a copy of my advice to the Hon Tony Rundle, Chairman of AFMA (Attachment B).

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

Ian Campbell
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

21 December 2006


Attachment A

Conditions on the Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) Declaration for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF)

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Management Plan 2003.
  2. Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any changes to the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Management Plan 2003 or other significant policy documents to enable DEH to evaluate any impact on the ecological sustainability of the fishery.
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to the DEH annually, and to include:
    1. a statement of the extent to which the performance criteria of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Management Plan 2003 were met in the year; and
    2. information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of AFMA in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery December 2006.
  4. AFMA by the end of 2007 to ensure a defined process for expanding fishing effort in each sector of the SESSF to new areas and/or new species is implemented within the formal management arrangements for the SESSF.
  5. AFMA to develop and implement within 12 months formal recovery plans for species in the SESSF classified as overfished, with priority to be given to eastern gemfish and school shark.
  6. AFMA to finalise the SESSF Bycatch Action Plan (BAP) by June 2007. The BAP should include specified targets for bycatch reduction across all sectors, with the aim of minimisation, along with measures to address bycatch mitigation and performance measures to evaluate effectiveness of the various bycatch reduction measures.

Recommendations for the SESSF

  1. AFMA to continue to work with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and other jurisdictions to pursue complementary management and research of shared stocks, in particular with New South Wales for quota managed and high risk species.
  2. AFMA within 18 months to implement the Ecological Risk Management (ERM) framework to address the high risks identified by the Ecological Risk Assessment process, in particular high risk non-quota species.
  3. AFMA, in conjunction with SESSF stakeholders, to continue to systematically assess the spatial and temporal management requirements across the SESSF and implement relevant spatial or temporal management measures within the ERM framework and other management mechanisms. Spatial and temporal measures should be supported by appropriate evaluation mechanisms to determine their effectiveness.
  4. AFMA to develop and implement further measures to verify the extent and type of interactions with protected species in the SESSF, with priority given to sea lions, fur seals, great white sharks, syngnathids and seabirds.
  5. AFMA to give priority to developing specific mitigation measures to reduce fishing impacts on fur seals, seabirds and sea lions across the sectors of the SESSF. Measures to mitigate interactions should be formally incorporated into AFMA’s management prescriptions for the relevant sectors of the fishery.