Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

Ministerial Decision
David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 30 September 2003

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

Dear Dr Craik

In November 2002 the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) submitted the documents Strategic assessment report of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) and the draft Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan (the Plan), for strategic assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act).

The fishery has undergone strategic assessment against the Terms of Reference for the Environmental Assessment of the SESSF, including the Commonwealth's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries for the purposes of Division 2 of Part 10 of the Act. The fishery was also assessed in accordance with the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the Act, and to determine whether the fishery 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 Department of the Environment and Heritage's website at the following address: http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

I am satisfied that AFMA has provided a report that adequately addresses the current and likely impacts of activities taken in accordance with the management plan for the SESSF. The assessment has identified a number of issues that need to be addressed to contain environmental risks in the medium term. I am therefore pleased that you have agreed to the eighteen recommendations at Attachment A that have been made as outcomes of this assessment to address these issues.

I am satisfied that actions taken in accordance with the management plan are unlikely to have unacceptable or unsustainable impacts on the environment in a Commonwealth marine area.

Accordingly, I am prepared to endorse the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Management Plan 2003 for the purposes of Part 10 of the Act, and propose to accredit the management plan for the purposes of making a declaration under Section 33 of the Act in relation to actions affecting the environment in a Commonwealth marine area. I will table a notice of intent to accredit the Plan as soon as possible.

I am also 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 or recovery in nature of threatened species. I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the SESSF, including ongoing monitoring and expansion of mitigation measures, meet the requirements of Part 13 of the Act, that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed. I propose to 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 under Part 13 of the Act.

On this basis, I am satisfied that an action taken by an individual fisher, acting in accordance with the management plan, would not be expected to have a significant impact on a listed threatened species or listed migratory species protected by the Act.

I am also satisfied that, for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the Act, the plan of management for the SESSF provides for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I am also satisfied that it is unlikely to be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon, or threaten any relevant ecosystem, to which the fishery relates.

However, given the uncertainty associated with this fishery and the need to progressively implement improved management arrangements, I have decided to declare the fishery an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) for a period of three years. The declaration will allow permits to be granted for the export of product derived from the fishery. I will make the declaration subject to the conditions at Attachment B. I draw your attention to subsection 303FT(9) of the EPBC Act, which obliges me to revoke a declaration of an approved WTO, if I am satisfied that a condition has been contravened.

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
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

30 September 2003


Recommendations to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority on the ecologically sustainable management of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

Recommendation 1: A report to be produced annually and presented to the EA and to include a statement of the extent to which the performance criteria of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Management Plan were met in the year; and information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of AFMA in implementing the following recommendations 2 to 18 as stated below.

Recommendation 2: Section 7(1)(b) of the draft SESSF management plan be amended to:

"that data is collected, appropriately verified and analysed to enable:

  1. timely evaluation of the effectiveness of the management measures implemented to maintain the resources of the fishery at, or rebuild those resources to, an acceptable level; and
  2. timely modification of those management measures"

Recommendation 3: AFMA will develop a single document within 2 years that describes the structured monitoring program required under Section 6(a) of the Management Plan. The program will address priority monitoring issues such as discarding rates, threatened and listed species interactions and appropriate levels of observer coverage and fishery independent studies in all sectors of the fishery.

Recommendation 4: Section 6(f) of the draft SESSF management plan be amended to:

"setting TACs, harvest strategies and reference points for non quota species"

Recommendation 5: AFMA to establish a schedule to develop and implement, within 3 years, harvest strategies, including decision rules and reference points, for quota species and high risk non quota species identified from the ecological risk assessment process. Harvest strategies will include:

  • monitoring of landed catch;
  • TACs or trigger ranges/levels of acceptable catch; and
  • development of management responses when reference points or trigger ranges/levels are reached.

Recommendation 6: Within 3 years AFMA will identify and implement management responses to fishing impacts identified from the ecological risk assessment process, taking into account known fishing impacts on:

  • vulnerable and/or overfished species;
  • listed threatened species under the EPBC Act in the fishery;
  • species with low productivity;
  • key species in the food chain such as squid and jack mackerel;
  • areas of localized depletion;
  • cumulative gear impacts across the life cycles of species in the SESSF and adjoining fisheries;
  • species with increasing levels, or significant potential for increased levels, of catch landings.

Recommendation 7: Sections 12c) and 16c) of the draft SESSF management plan be amended to:

"c) must take into account:

  1. all fishing mortality from all sectors within the fishery and overlapping or adjacent fisheries for the species; and
  2. the ecological implications of harvesting the TAC; and
  3. the distribution and population structure of the species."

Recommendation 8: Section 7(g) of the draft SESSF management plan be amended to:

"that stocks of quota species, and other species for which reference points have been determined, are above the reference points for the species"

Recommendation 9: Within two years, as an interim measure, AFMA will implement management actions to monitor the level of catches of those non quota species identified as high risk in the ecological risk assessment process and implement appropriate precautionary management controls to ensure harvest levels are ecologically sustainable. Harvest strategies for high risk non quota species must be developed before catches of those species may be increased.

Recommendation 10: AFMA will develop and implement within 3 years a system of spatial and temporal management to assist the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable manner. The system of strategic closures will take account of impacts of fishing on:

  • species and populations identified by the ecological risk assessment process as high risk;
  • the recovery of overfished stocks;
  • important spawning / pupping / juvenile / feeding /refuge grounds;
  • benthic habitats and associated impacts on productivity of quota and non quota species;
  • species vulnerable to particular methods of fishing such as deepwater dogfish;
  • various stages of the life cycle of species eg ling, blue eye trevalla and sharks; and
  • species and associated habitats taken as target species by other fisheries;
  • species or habitats fished at particular depth ranges by particular gear types.

Recommendation 11: As an initial measure for the proposed system of spatial management, AFMA will, within two years, implement precautionary management for the development of new fishing grounds. AFMA will broadly identify, for each fishing sector and associated gear types, those areas that have never been fished by those sectors and associated gear types prior to the end of 2002. Expansion of fishing activity to new areas for the particular sectors and gear types will be under structured and precautionary management arrangements to ensure ecologically sustainable harvesting.

Recommendation 12: AFMA will ensure that the strategic compliance program required under Section 6 (j) of the management plan identifies and implements appropriate tools to effectively monitor and validate compliance with all management measures, including spatial management, administered under the SESSF management plan.

Recommendation 13: AFMA, in consultation with industry and other stakeholders:

  • develop and implement management arrangements to significantly reduce the current total level of quota and non quota discards in the SESSF within 3 years; and
  • within 12 months as part of the bycatch plan determine target reduction levels and baselines for future discarding in the fishery that are acceptable to Environment Australia.

Recommendation 14: Effective management requirements to use discard and other bycatch mitigation measures will be introduced at the conclusion of a trial and development period of up to three years. AFMA will monitor the extent of uptake of mitigation measures and introduce mandatory measures where voluntary uptake of measures is insufficient.

Recommendation 15: Section 7(1)(m) of the draft SESSF management plan be amended to:

"that, if the stock of a species is found to be below the reference point for the species, effective recovery strategies are implemented within 12 months to ensure that, to the extent that the deficit of the stock is attributable to factors related to the management of the fishery, the depleted stock is rebuilt above the reference point."

Recommendation 16: Section 8 of the draft SESSF management plan be amended to:

"(3A) For paragraph (3)(d), actions that must be required include, as appropriate:

  1. defining and implementing appropriate bycatch limits; and
  2. setting targets for bycatch reduction; and
  3. implementing bycatch reduction measures within set time periods."

Recommendation 17: Section 8(4)(b)(iv) of the draft SESSF management plan be amended to:

"(4) In developing a bycatch action plan, AFMA must take into account:

  • (b) the requirements under the EPBC Act for the protection of :
    • (iv) listed threatened ecological communities."

Recommendation 18: AFMA, in consultation with industry, EA, researchers and other stakeholders, to further assess and reduce the extent of interactions of seals, cetaceans and seabirds across all sectors of the SESSF, and interactions with syngnathids in the trawl sectors and white sharks in the gillnet and hook sector. AFMA will, for all of the above species:

  • within 12 months, establish robust data collection and reporting systems to quantify the extent of interactions; and
  • within 3 years assess, trial and implement as appropriate mitigation or avoidance measures including further trials of bycatch exclusion devices and spatial or temporal closures.

For seals and sea lions, AFMA will, within 18 months, extend across the trawl sectors management measures assessed as effective to help reduce interactions with seals and sea lions.

For syngnathid and seabird species, AFMA will, within two years, assess under the ecological risk assessment process the risks of fishing activities in the SESSF to syngnathid and seabird species and develop appropriate management responses to the outcomes of the ecological risk assessment.