Torres Strait Prawn Fishery

Ministerial Decision
26 November 2005

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister

On 22 February 2005 you submitted to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator the Hon Ian Campbell, the draft document, Draft assessment report - Torres Strait Prawn Fishery (TSPF), for strategic assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) also submitted on 25 November 2005 the draft Torres Strait Prawn 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 Protected Zone Joint Authority (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 to longer 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 TSPF 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 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 the formal agreement of the PZJA on the recommendations made to enhance the management of the fishery. I look forward to receiving the final PZJA response on these recommendations 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 Hon Tony Rundle, AFMA Chairman (Attachment C).

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

26 November 2005