Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Campbell, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 11 November 2004

The Hon Tony Rundle
Chairman
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
Box 7051 Canberra Mail Centre
Canberra ACT 2610

Dear Mr Rundle

In December 2003 the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), in accordance with the section 146 agreement, submitted the - Strategic assessment report - Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery and the Torres Strait Rock Lobster Statement of Management Arrangements (the management plan) for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act).

The Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery (TSTRLF) has been strategically assessed for the purposes of Part 10 of the Act, including against the Terms of Reference for the Environmental Assessment of the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery and the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fishery was also assessed in accordance with the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the Act, and to determine whether the fishery would adversely affect species protected by Part 13 of the Act. I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the Department of the Environment and Heritage website at the following address:

http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

I am satisfied that AFMA has provided an adequate report on the current and likely impacts of actions taken in accordance with the management plan for the TSTRLF. The assessment has identified a number of issues that need to be addressed to contain environmental risks in the medium term. I am therefore pleased that Senator Macdonald, as Chair of the Protected Zone Joint Authority, has agreed to the recommendations at Attachment A to address these issues.

I am satisfied that actions taken in accordance with the management plan are unlikely to have unacceptable or unsustainable impacts on the environment in a Commonwealth marine area.

Accordingly, I am prepared to endorse the management plan for the purposes of Part 10 of the Act, and propose to accredit the management plan for the purposes of making a declaration under Section 33 of the Act in relation to actions affecting the environment in a Commonwealth marine area. I will table a notice of intent to accredit the management plan as soon as possible.

I am satisfied that it is unlikely that fishing operations conducted in accordance with the management arrangements for the TSTRLF, including ongoing monitoring and refinement of mitigation measures, ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed, and that 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. Accordingly, it is my view that actions provided for, and taken in accordance with, the management plan would not be expected to contravene the protected species provisions of the Act.

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

I am also satisfied that, for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the Act, the management plan for the TSTRLF provides for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I am also satisfied that it is unlikely to be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon, or threaten any relevant ecosystem, to which the fishery relates.

Given the uncertainty associated with this fishery and the need to progressively implement improved management arrangements, I have decided to declare the fishery an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) for a period of 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 me to revoke a declaration of an approved WTO, if I am 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 would 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.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this task and I look forward to reviewing the remainder of the PZJA managed fisheries.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Ian Campbell
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

11 November 2004


Recommendations to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery

Recommendation 1: Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984 and the Torres Strait Rock Lobster Statement of Management Arrangements. AFMA will inform DEH of any changes to the Act or the Statement.

Recommendation 2: AFMA 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.

Recommendation 3: AFMA to develop clear objectives and performance measures for the fishery relating to target species and ecosystem impacts within 1 year. The performance of the fishery to be reviewed annually against these measures and the outcomes published. A biological reference point to be developed and implemented for rock lobster stocks.

Recommendation 4: AFMA to develop a clear process and timeframe for determining the reason for a performance criteria breach and implementing appropriate management measures within specified timeframes.

Recommendation 5: AFMA to conduct a formal compliance risk assessment of the TSRLF within 1 year and develop a strategy to implement any resultant recommendations.

Recommendation 6: Annual catch and effort statistics to be published and publicly available by the end of 2004.

Recommendation 7: AFMA to ensure that mechanisms are in place to ensure that adequate and reliable data on catch and effort, appropriate to the scale of the fishery, are collected from all sectors to ensure sustainable management of the TSTRL resource.

Recommendation 8: AFMA to continue to pursue complementary management arrangements with other jurisdictions responsible for managing shared rock lobster stocks to ensure that all removals and other relevant impacts on the stock are properly accounted for in stock assessments.

Recommendation 9: AFMA to control fishing mortality, through effort controls or other mechanisms across all sectors, to maintain stocks at ecologically sustainable levels.

Recommendation 10: AFMA will provide a report annually to the DEH on the progress in implementing the recommendations.

Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration wild for the Torres Strait Rock Lobster Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster management plan.
  2. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any changes to the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster management plan or other significant policy documents.
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to the Department of the Environment and Heritage annually, and to include:
    • a statement of the extent to which the performance criteria of the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster management plan were met in the year; and
    • information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of Australian Fisheries Management Authority in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery 2004.