Torres Strait Prawn Fishery
26 November 2005
The Hon Tony Rundle
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
PO Box 7051
Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610
Dear Mr Rundle
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 Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald, PZJA Chairman.
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
26 November 2005
Recommendations to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery (TSPF)
- The Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any proposed amendment to the management regime for the TSPF to enable DEH to evaluate any impact on the ecological sustainability of the fishery.
- 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.
- PZJA to develop and apply fishery specific management objectives, performance indicators and performance measures for target, key byproduct, bycatch and protected species and ecosystem impacts. PZJA to ensure that adequate information collection systems are put in place to monitor performance against indicators.
- 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.
- PZJA to develop within 1 year a strategy and timeframes for implementing any resultant recommendations arising from the formal compliance risk assessment.
- PZJA to report annually on performance of the fishery against specified objectives and measures, once developed, with the reports to be made publicly available.
- PZJA will continue to cooperate with other relevant jurisdictions to pursue complementary management and research of shared stocks for all target, byproduct and bycatch species, which may be affected by cross-jurisdictional issues.
- PZJA, within 12 months, to develop and implement an ongoing robust system to validate effort and catch data on target and byproduct species.
- PZJA to develop and implement a robust and regular stock assessment process, which estimates key population parameters and quantifies the uncertainty associated with each and provides a basis for risk-based management decisions for each target species, where such an analysis is feasible. For other species, the assessment process will examine the ecological sustainability of the take of target, byproduct and bycatch using qualitative or semi-quantitative risk assessments. Appropriate management responses will be developed to reduce risks to the high-risk species or groups.
- PZJA to develop and commence by the start of the 2006 fishing season a program to reduce effort to ecologically sustainable levels with clear objectives and timeframes.
- PZJA will continue to pursue reduction in the amount of bycatch taken in the TSPF through the refinement of bycatch mitigation technology and will investigate methods for increasing the survivability of bycatch species. Any suitable methods identified should be implemented in a timely manner.
- PZJA to promote research into the impact of the fishery on protected species, including syngnathids and seasnakes, and to take all reasonable steps to reduce protected species interactions.
- PZJA to develop and implement a spatial management system within the TSPF that takes account of the impacts of fishing on:
- species and populations identified by the ecological risk assessment process as high risk;
- important feeding/spawning/breeding/refuge grounds for key target, byproduct and protected species; and
- benthic habitats
This spatial management system will be integrated with the regional marine planning process for Northern Australia and will ensure that the entire fishery area is taken into account.
- Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery Statement of Management Arrangements.
- The Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any proposed amendment to the management regime for the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery to enable the DEH to evaluate any impact on the ecological sustainability of the fishery.
- Reports to be produced and presented to the DEH annually, and to include:
- information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of the PZJA in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Torres Strait Prawn 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.