Torres Strait Finfish Fishery

Ministerial Decision
29 November 2005

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

Dear Mr Rundle

On 29 September 2005, Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald, in his capacity as Chairman of the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA), submitted to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator the Hon Ian Campbell, the draft document, Draft assessment report - Torres Strait Finfish Fishery (TSFF), for strategic assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) also submitted on 31 October 2005 the draft Torres Strait Finfish Fishery Statement of Management Arrangements 2005 (the management arrangements) as part of this strategic assessment.

The fishery has been strategically assessed against the Australian Government's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries for the strategic assessment 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, and to determine whether the fishery should be accredited for the purposes of the protected species provisions of Part 13 of the EPBC Act.

I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. Once decisions are finalised, the assessment report will be available on the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) website through the following address: http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

I am satisfied that AFMA, through the PZJA, 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 the PZJA has received advice from AFMA and through the relevant Torres Strait fisheries advisory bodies supporting the recommendations.

I am satisfied that actions taken in accordance with the management arrangements are unlikely to have unacceptable or unsustainable impacts on the environment in the Commonwealth marine area. Accordingly, I have endorsed the management arrangements for the purposes of Part 10 of the EPBC Act, and propose to accredit the management arrangements for the purposes of making a declaration under section 33 of the EPBC Act in relation to actions affecting the environment in a Commonwealth marine area. I will table a notice of intent to accredit the management arrangements as soon as possible.

I am satisfied that it is unlikely that fishing operations conducted in accordance with the management arrangements of the TSFF will adversely affect the conservation status of protected species, or affect the survival and recovery of listed threatened species. Accordingly, it is my view that actions provided for, and taken in accordance with, the management arrangements would not be expected to contravene the protected species provisions of the EPBC Act. I have therefore accredited the management arrangements under Part 13 of the EPBC Act. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management arrangements are not required to seek permits if they are at risk of killing or injuring listed species in Commonwealth waters.

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

I am satisfied that the operation of the fishery is consistent with the objects of the wildlife trade provisions in Part 13A of the EPBC Act. I am also satisfied that it 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. The fishery is relatively well managed and operates under an adaptable and precautionary regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. Performance against the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries is adequate, however there are a number of issues, in particular the need to more effectively monitor and control catch and effort in the fishery, that need to be addressed to contain environmental risks in the medium to longer term.

Given the uncertainty associated with this fishery and the need to progressively implement improved management arrangements, I propose to declare the fishery an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the EPBC Act. This declaration would allow the export of product from the fishery for the next three years. 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 the Minister for the Environment and Heritage to revoke a declaration of an approved WTO, if satisfied that a condition has been contravened.

I also propose to include product from this WTO fishery 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 (3 years) and all WTO conditions would continue to apply.

Please note that the decisions on this assessment are still contingent on receiving formal agreement from the PZJA on the recommendations made to enhance the management of the fishery and I expect the final PZJA response on these recommendations to be sent as soon as possible.

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 the Chairman of the PZJA, Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

29 November 2005


Attachment A

Recommendations to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Torres Strait Finfish Fishery (TSFF)

  1. The Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) to be informed of any proposed amendment to the management regime for the TSFF to enable DEH to evaluate any impact on the ecological sustainability of the fishery.
  2. PZJA to continue to ensure that consultative processes are conducted in a manner that ensures the timely implementation of management responses essential for the sustainability of the fishery.
  3. PZJA to develop and apply, during the 2007 fishing season, fishery specific management objectives, performance indicators and performance measures for target, key byproduct and bycatch species, protected species and the ecosystem impacts.
  4. PZJA to develop a clear process for determining the reason for a performance measure being triggered and for implementing appropriate management measures within specified timeframes.
  5. PZJA to report annually on performance of the fishery against specified objectives and measures, once developed, with the reports to be made publicly available.
  6. PZJA to ensure that mechanisms are in place to collect adequate and reliable data on catch and effort, appropriate to the scale of the fishery, from all sectors to ensure sustainable management of finfish resources. Initial priority should be given to the commercial sectors of the fishery. Options for the collection of non-commercial catch and effort data will be evaluated, taking account of outcomes of recent research programs, and appropriate options progressively developed and implemented to improve estimates of non-commercial catch and effort used in stock assessments and management controls.
  7. PZJA, within 18 months, to review available options to validate catch and effort data on target and byproduct species in the TSFF. Appropriate validation mechanisms for target and byproduct catch and effort data to be progressively developed and applied in the fishery from the 2008 fishing season.
  8. PZJA to continue to work towards developing more refined yield estimates of target and key byproduct species to determine sustainable harvest levels.
  9. PZJA to control fishing mortality, through effort controls or other mechanisms across all sectors, to maintain stocks at ecologically sustainable levels.
  10. PZJA, within 18 months, to develop and implement an ongoing program to collect information on the composition and abundance of bycatch across the commercial sectors of the fishery.

Attachment B

Conditions on the Approved Wildlife Trade Declaration for the Torres Strait Finfish Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Torres Strait Finfish Fishery Statement of Management Arrangements.
  2. The Protected Zone Joint Authority will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any proposed amendment to the management regime for the Torres Strait Finfish Fishery to enable the Department of the Environment and Heritage to evaluate any impact on the ecological sustainability of the fishery.
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to the Department of the Environment and Heritage annually, and to include:
    • information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of the Protected Zone Joint Authority in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Torres Strait Finfish Fishery 2005;
    • a description of the status of the fishery and catch and effort information;
    • a statement of the performance of the fishery against objectives, performance indicators and measures once developed; and
    • research undertaken or completed relevant to the fishery.