Skipjack Tuna Fishery

Ministerial Decision
30 November 2005

The Hon Tony Rundle
Chairman
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
PO Box 7051
CANBERRA BUSINESS CENTRE ACT 2610

Dear Mr Rundle

I am writing to you as the Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage with regards to the Strategic Assessment of the Skipjack Tuna Fishery (SJTF). In September 2004, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) submitted the document - Draft assessment report -Skipjack Tuna Fishery for strategic assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The fishery has been strategically assessed against the Australian Government's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries for the purposes of Part 13 and the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act. As the draft Statement of Management Arrangements has not yet been finalised for the SJTF, consideration of the accreditation of the management arrangements under Part 10 of the EPBC Act is not possible at this time.

I am satisfied that AFMA, has provided an adequate report on the current and likely impacts of actions taken in accordance with the management arrangements for this fishery. The assessment has identified a number of environmental risks associated with the fishery that need to be addressed in the medium term and I have made a number of recommendations (at Attachment A) relating to their management. I understand that these recommendations have been discussed with and agreed to by officials in AFMA and DEH, while officials from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) have agreed to recommendation 4.

I note your letter of 25 October 2005 regarding the assessment of the SJTF under the EPBC Act. I understand AFMA's request for a review of the proposed declaration of the fishery, due to the importance that AFMA places on the effective implementation of the recommendations. However, after careful consideration, the SJTF has been declared a Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) due to the range of uncertainties with the fishery and the need to give priority to addressing them through more formal management arrangements. This is consistent with the approach taken with other Commonwealth and State managed fisheries that have similar management arrangements.

I am satisfied that SJTF is unlikely to be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon to which the fishery relates, or threaten any relevant ecosystem in the short to mid term. Hence I propose to declare the fishery an approved WTO under Part 13A of the EPBC Act. This declaration would allow the export of product from the fishery for the next 3 years while more formal management arrangements for the SJTF are finalised. The declaration is subject to the conditions set out at Attachment B. Please note that if any condition is not met, the Minister is compelled to revoke the WTO decision.

I propose to include product from the SJTF WTO on the list of Exempt Native Specimens so that exporters would not require EPBC Act export permits. The fishery would continue to operate as a WTO for the 3 year period of the declaration and all WTO conditions would continue to apply.

I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fishery currently require that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed and 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. Hence the management arrangements for the SJTF meet the requirements of Part 13 of the EPBC Act and I propose to accredit the management arrangements. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management arrangements are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species in Commonwealth waters.

DEH is able to make an assessment of the more formal management arrangements for the SJTF at any time. I look forward to action toward a more formal set of management arrangements for the SJTF. I trust that you will ensure that industry participants are made aware of the status of export approval and the requirements for the continuation of the export of product from the SJTF.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this task and have attached for your information a copy of my advice to Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

30 November 2005


Attachment A

Recommendations to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Skipjack Tuna Fishery (SJTF)

Recommendation 1   AFMA to establish a more formal consultative mechanism for the skipjack tuna fishery that is consistent with the consulting and reporting provisions of an AFMA Management Advisory Committee (MAC).

Recommendation 2    By the end of 2006, AFMA to develop a management regime for the skipjack tuna fishery, which includes fishery specific management objectives, performance indicators and performance measures for target, byproduct and bycatch species. AFMA will ensure that adequate information collection systems are put in place to monitor performance against measures and ensure that the fishery is ecologically sustainable.

Recommendation 3   AFMA, by the end of 2006, to develop and implement an ongoing robust system to validate effort and catch data on target species, byproduct and bycatch species.

Recommendation 4   The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) in consultation with AFMA, DEH and other relevant government agencies, to take a proactive role in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and seek to improve the effectiveness of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) as the regional fishery management forum for managing and conserving the species on which the skipjack tuna fishery relies. DAFF to pursue through these forums the achievement of the following priorities:

  • promote the development of management options that address potential concerns of the IOTC Scientific Committee as they emerge;
  • develop a process to gain a better understanding of the relationship between the populations of skipjack in Australian waters and other regional populations of skipjack in either the Indian or Pacific Oceans;
  • endeavour to take measures to improve controls over illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing;
  • ensure all fishing entities taking skipjack tuna in the Western and Central Pacific and Indian Oceans are members of the WCPFC and/or the IOTC, as applicable;
  • take measures to verify the catch (target, by-product and bycatch species) of all fishing entities;
  • endeavour to strengthen stock assessments for SJT; and
  • pursue a regime to protect ecologically related species, including byproduct and bycatch, from unsustainable fishing pressures.

Recommendation 5   Within 18 months of completion of the ecological risk assessment, AFMA will identify and implement appropriate management strategies to address fishing impacts identified as high risk from the ecological risk assessment process.

Recommendation 6   Within 18 months, AFMA to take account of the harvest of skipjack tuna by all sectors and factor this into the stock assessment process and management of the fishery to ensure sustainable management of the resource.


Attachment B

Conditions on the Approved Wildlife Trade Declaration for the Skipjack Tuna Fishery (SJTF)

  1. Operation of the fishery is to be carried out in accordance with the Skipjack Tuna Fishery Statement of Management Arrangements until such time as a formal skipjack tuna management plan is developed and implemented.
  2. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any proposed amendment to current management arrangements for the Skipjack Tuna 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 indicators and measures of the skipjack tuna fishery management regime, once developed, were met in the year;
    2. The progress of AFMA in implementing the recommendations for the Skipjack Tuna Fishery; and
    3. Any shift in the use of fishing gear.