Torres Strait Trochus Fishery

Ministerial Decision
28 November 2005

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

Dear Mr Rundle

On 31 August 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 Trochus Fishery, for strategic assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) also submitted in November 2005 the draft Torres Strait Trochus 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 on the recommendations from AFMA and through the relevant Torres Strait fisheries advisory bodies which has supported 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 Torres Strait Trochus Fishery 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 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 (Attachment C).

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

28 November 2005


Attachment A

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

Recommendation 1: The Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) to be informed of any proposed amendment to the management regime for the TSTF to enable DEH to evaluate any impact on the ecological sustainability of the fishery.

Recommendation 2: The Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA), within 2 years, to develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for the target species. The performance of the fishery to be reviewed annually against these measures and the outcomes published.

Recommendation 3: PZJA, within 2 years, to review stock assessment process and existing Total Allowable Catch (TAC) levels to ensure that methods used to estimate potential yield and TACs are sufficiently precautionary, and recognise the level of risk.

Recommendation 4: PZJA to continue to work with Torres Strait communities, fishers and processors to ensure that adequate and reliable data, appropriate to the scale of the fishery, are collected from all sectors to ensure sustainable management of the Torres Strait Trochus resource. Initial priority should be given to the docket book system for commercial sectors of the fishery. Options for the collection of non-commercial and illegal take will be evaluated, taking account of outcomes of recent research and compliance programs, and appropriate options progressively developed and implemented to improve estimates of all removals used in stock assessments and management controls.

Recommendation 5: PZJA to continue to cooperate with other management agencies, research institutions, Torres Strait communities and the industry in efforts to identify and undertake research and monitoring projects to address future sustainability of the Torres Strait trochus fishery.

Recommendation 6: PZJA to investigate and, if necessary, progressively implement measures to minimise potential localised depletion in the fishery.


Attachment B

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

Condition 1: Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Torres Strait Trochus Fishery Statement of Management Arrangements, which is managed by the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984.

Condition 2: The Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) to be informed of any proposed amendment to the management regime for the Torres Strait Trochus Fishery to enable DEH to evaluate any impact on the ecological sustainability of the fishery.

Condition 3: The Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) to report annually to DEH on:

  1. a statement of the extent to which the performance indicators and measures of the TSTF management arrangements, once developed, were met in the year; and
  2. information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of the PZJA in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Torres Strait Trochus Fishery 2005.