Western Trawl Fisheries

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 August 2004, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) submitted the document - Environmental assessment report - Western Trawl Fisheries (WTF) for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act).

The fisheries have been strategically assessed against the Terms of Reference - Environmental Assessment of the Western Trawl Fisheries, including the Australian Government's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries, for the purposes of Part 10 of the Act. The fisheries were also assessed in accordance with the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the Act, and to determine whether the fisheries should be accredited for the purposes of the protected species provisions of Part 13 of the Act. I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fisheries 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 has provided an adequate report on the current and likely impacts of activities taken in accordance with the management arrangements for the WTF. There are some environmental risks associated with the fisheries and I have made a number of recommendations (at Attachment A) relating to their management. I understand that these recommendations have been agreed by officials in our two agencies. Subject to our agreement on recommendations, I am satisfied on the following matters.

I am satisfied that actions taken in accordance with the management arrangements are unlikely to have an unacceptable or unsustainable impact on the environment in the Commonwealth marine area. Accordingly, I am prepared to endorse the Western Trawl Fisheries Statement of Management Arrangements 2004 (the management plan) for the purposes of Part 10 of the Act and will table a notice of intent to accredit the management plan as soon as possible after we have agreed on the recommendations.

I am also satisfied that it is unlikely that fishing operations conducted in accordance with the management arrangements will adversely affect the conservation status of protected species, or affect the survival and recovery of threatened species. I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the WTF meet the requirements of Part 13 of the Act, 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 fisheries is not likely to adversely affect the conservation status of protected species or the survival and recovery of listed threatened species. I propose to accredit the management plan accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management plan are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species.

I am also satisfied that performance of the WTF 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 longer term. Hence, I propose to declare the WTF an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the Act. This declaration will allow the export of product from the fisheries for the next three years. I will make the declaration subject to the conditions at Attachment B.

It is important to note that in arriving at my decision I have had particular regard to the limited number of licence holders permitted in each of the WTF, and the large fishery areas over which they operate, which results in limited fisheries impact on the marine environment. I also had particular regard to AFMA's commitment to an independent observer program trial designed to improve the current poor understanding of the target, by-product and bycatch species taken in the fisheries.

While some environmental risks are associated with these fisheries, I believe that AFMA has demonstrated a willingness to work together with industry to address them. I strongly encourage the continuation of this approach to management of the fisheries and believe that my recommendations will further strengthen management. I look forward to receiving your agreement to them.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

2 November 2004

Recommendations to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Western Trawl Fisheries

The material submitted by AFMA demonstrates that the management arrangements for the Western Trawl Fisheries (WTF) meet most of the requirements of the Australian Government Guidelines for the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries. The limited entry and small scale nature of these fisheries that operate over large fishery areas provide a precautionary basis for their management. AFMA has made considerable progress in developing sound management arrangements for the fisheries. Of particular note is the commitment to an independent observer program trial in the fisheries to collect much needed information on target species, by-product species and bycatch.

While the fishery is relatively well managed, a number of issues have been identified that must be addressed to ensure that their impacts are minimised:

  • Lack of fishery specific objectives, performance indicators and performance measures for each fishery;
  • Paucity of biological information about key species, particularly in the Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery (WDWTF);
  • Absence of validation of fishery dependent catch and effort data;
  • Potential and actual significant increases in catch or shift from traditionally targeted species without appropriate management to control the level of take in this event; and
  • Potential negative impact on vulnerable deepwater shark species.

The key issue for these fisheries will be improving the information from which to make informed management decisions in the future. AFMA has explicitly recognized the need for more comprehensive information for both fisheries. A number of the recommendations made below have been specifically designed to establish or improve the extent and quality of information available on each fishery.

The current management regime aims to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing and for fishing operations to be managed to minimise their impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem. The assessment found that the fisheries will not be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of the taxon to which it relates in the short term. Similarly, it is not likely to threaten any relevant ecosystem in the short term.

Recommendations

  1. AFMA to inform DEH of any proposed amendment to the management regime for the Western Trawl Fisheries to enable DEH to evaluate any impacts on the ecological sustainability of the fisheries.
  2. AFMA to actively pursue representation of conservation interests on the Western Trawl Fisheries Management Advisory Committee (WestMAC) by July 2005.
  3. AFMA to implement an ongoing independent observer program in the Western Trawl Fisheries to validate catch and effort information collected in the fisheries and collect information on key components of the fisheries, including but not limited to, bycatch taken in the fisheries, interactions with protected species and biological information on target and by-product species.
  4. AFMA to review the research information needs and priorities to meet the management information, decision making and performance measurement needs of the fishery. AFMA to develop a research strategy to address identified priority areas and to explore ways to cooperatively share in or take advantage of research done in adjacent fisheries with shared stocks.
  5. By December 2006, AFMA to develop fishery specific objectives, linked to performance indicators and performance measures for the target and by-product species taken in the North West Slope Trawl Fishery and for those species consistently harvested by the Western Deepwater Trawl Fishery*. Objectives to minimise bycatch, interactions with protected species and the ecological impacts of fishing activities should also be developed for both fisheries.
  6. AFMA to take into account the harvest of shared stock species by other fisheries and to cooperate with other relevant jurisdictions to pursue complementary management of shared stocks for all target and by-product species, which may be affected by cross-jurisdictional issues.
  7. AFMA to develop a management strategy for the harvesting of Slipper lobster in the Western Trawl Fisheries, which includes clearly defined management measures and performance measures, to ensure that harvesting of this species is conducted within sustainable limits.
  8. By December 2005, AFMA to implement a system for the ongoing monitoring of catches of deepwater shark species in the Western Trawl Fisheries, in particular Southern dogfish and Endeavour dogfish, to ensure that fishing activities do not negatively impact upon the populations or important habitats of these species.
  9. AFMA, in cooperation with relevant fisheries management agencies to develop and implement a precautionary and biologically meaningful limit for squid harvest based on best available information about the species ability to withstand fishing pressure, within 3 years.
  10. Within two years of completion of the ecological risk assessment of the Western Trawl Fisheries, AFMA to identify and implement appropriate management strategies to address/mitigate impacts identified.

Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration wild for the Western Trawl Fisheries

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Western Trawl Fisheries (WTF) Statement of Management Arrangements 2004;
  2. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any proposed amendment to the management regime for the WTF to enable DEH to evaluate any impacts 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:
    1. Information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of AFMA in implementing the recommendations made in the DEH Assessment of the Western Trawl Fisheries 2004;
    2. Information regarding the status of each of the WTF;
    3. a statement of the performance of each of the WTF against objectives, performance measures and triggers once developed; and
    4. Research undertaken or completed relevant to each of the WTF.

Footnotes

† Scampi, deepwater prawns, squid and deepwater slipper lobster (bug) species
* Deepwater flathead, Bar rock cod, Mirror Dory, Scampi, Slipper lobster, Ruby snapper, Amber jack and Bight redfish