New South Wales Lobster Fishery - Ministerial decision 2006

Ministerial Decision
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 27 November 2006

The Hon Ian Macdonald MLC
Minister for Primary Industries
Parliament House
Macquarie St
Sydney NSW 2000

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as the Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage regarding the assessment of the New South Wales (NSW) Lobster Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).  In November 2005 Mr Andrew McNee, a Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, declared the Lobster Fishery  an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) for a 3 month period.  This declaration expires on 29 November 2006.  Mr McNee also accredited the fishery under the protected species provisions of Part 13 of the EPBC Act. At the time Mr McNee noted the intention of the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) to further assess the management arrangements for the Lobster Fishery following your approval of the Fishery Management Strategy (FMS) at the completion of the NSW Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process for the fishery.

I acknowledge your determination of 1 March 2006 under the provisions of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 that requires, as an outcome of the EIA process for the Lobster Fishery, a range of modifications to the fishery’s management arrangements to improve the sustainability of the fishery. These modifications include enhanced performance criteria, collection, stock and research programs, gear modifications to reduce lobster discards and other bycatch, measures to reduce take of high risk species such as wobbegong sharks and measures to verify and address impacts of the fishery on the broader ecosystem that should enhance the ecological sustainability of the fishery in the medium to longer term. I also note that these modifications will primarily be implemented through the revised FMS.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has recently advised the DEH that the finalisation of the Lobster Fishery FMS has been delayed beyond the expiry of the current WTO export approval for the fishery and they expect to have the revised FMS completed for your approval by the end of 2006. In recognition that the FMS is close to completion and of the commitments made by NSW DPI to implement a wide range of new management measures in the new FMS to enhance the ecologically sustainable management of the fishery, I am prepared to extend the current WTO for the Lobster Fishery until 31 March 2007. Please note that the WTO declaration is subject to the conditions at Attachment A

Due to the series of delays experienced to date in finalising the EIA process for this fishery, I have some concern that further delays may prevent the timely implementation of management arrangements committed to in the new FMS to enhance ecological sustainability.  Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to Condition 2 of the WTO declaration which requires the FMS for the fishery to be completed and approved by 28 February 2007.  Please note that if any WTO condition is not met, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage is compelled under the EPBC Act to revoke the declaration.

The accreditation under Part 13 of the EPBC Act granted in November 2005 will continue to apply to the fishery, along with the recommendations agreed with NSW DPI from the first assessment decisions made for the fishery in November 2005 (Attachment B).

The DEH assessment of the Lobster Fishery under the EPBC Act will be completed once the FMS is approved and provided to DEH. I look forward to being advised of the finalisation of the FMS and making new decisions regarding the export approval of this fishery.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Lara Musgrave
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

27 November 2006

Attachment A

Conditions on the Approved Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the New South Wales (NSW) Lobster Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the NSW Lobster Share Management Plan 2000 in force under the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994.
  2. The Fishery Management Strategy for the NSW Lobster Fishery to be finalised and approved by 28 February 2007.

Attachment B

Recommendations to the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on the ecologically sustainable management of the NSW Lobster Fishery

  1. NSW DPI to advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any material change to the NSW Lobster Fishery's management arrangements that could negatively affect the assessment of the fishery against the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 criteria, within three months of that change being made.
  2. NSW DPI, within 2 years, to review current arrangements for validating daily lobster landings and other catch and effort data and implement measures to improve the robustness of the data where necessary.
  3. NSW DPI to institute programs to provide appropriate estimates of annual harvests by the recreational and indigenous sectors and of the illegal and unreported commercial harvests in time for inclusion in the 2007/08 stock assessment and Total Allowable Commercial Catch setting processes.
  4. In consultation with the Lobster Management Advisory Committee, NSW DPI to progressively develop and implement appropriate management responses to combat illegal possession and sales of lobsters.
  5. NSW DPI, within 2 years, to review current gear specifications and institute research to determine the optimum dimensions and use of escape gaps and fish escape panels across the fishery and assess the benefits in terms of reduced catches of undersized lobsters and other bycatch. Appropriate measures necessary to minimise bycatch should be implemented within 18 months of the completion of relevant research.
  6. NSW DPI to include the requirement for mandatory daily reporting of all byproduct, including separate records for key species, by the start of the 2006/07 lobster fishing season. Appropriate support to be provided, including guides to species identification and information on the importance of complete and accurate reporting.
  7. NSW DPI, by 2007/08, to develop and implement monitoring and assessment arrangements sufficient to enable detection of changes in the quantity and/or composition of bycatch over time.
  8. NSW DPI to include, as a priority management action, the mapping of lobster fishing grounds and habitat types as a key tool for identifying lobster and other fishery impacts and the need for detailed studies or direct remedial action.