Assessment of the Torres Strait Beche-de-mer Fishery

Environmental assessment under the EPBC Act
Department of the Environment and Heritage, June 2005
ISBN 0 642 55147 2

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About the report

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has submitted documents for assessment of the Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery under Parts 10, 13 and 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage (the Minister) signed an Agreement with the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation to initiate strategic assessment of the Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery in November 2002. After public consultation required under the EPBC Act, Terms of Reference for the Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery were adopted. The document Draft assessment report: Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery (the submission) was received by the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) in September 2004. The document was released for a public comment period that expired on 15 October 2004. One public comment was received. AFMA has provided a response to the issues raised and amended the submission where necessary. The document Draft assessment report: Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery: February 2005 (the submission) was submitted for assessment on 11 May 2005.

The submission reports on the Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery against the Terms of Reference for the Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery, which include the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The DEH assessment considers the submission, associated documents, the public comment and the response from AFMA to the comments.

The Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery management area incorporates Australian jurisdictional waters under the Torres Strait Treaty and the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984 (TSFA). The area is approximately 41,000 km2, however fishing is only conducted in the relatively restricted areas of suitable habitat. The Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery is managed by the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA), established under the TSFA, and AFMA is responsible for the day-to-day management. Table 1 provides a summary of the main characteristics of the fishery and current management arrangements.

The fishery is based on collection by hand in shallow water and areas of suitable habitat exposed intertidally and by free diving from dinghies crewed by 2-3 fishers. The use of compressed air (hookah or Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA)) is not permitted. As a selective hand collection and free-dive fishery, there is no bycatch other than symbiotic animals, including pearl fish and a range of internal and external parasitic and commensal invertebrates that are discarded with offal.