New South Wales Lobster Fishery - Ministerial decision 2005

Ministerial Decision
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 29 November 2005

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

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the New South Wales (NSW) Lobster Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

In December 2004 the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) submitted to the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) the documents entitled Lobster Fishery: Environmental Impact Statement Vol 1, 2 & 3 (EIS). I understand that these documents, including a draft Fishery Management Strategy (FMS) for the fishery, provide the basis of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process required under NSW legislation that is close to completion for this fishery.

As the final FMS for the Lobster Fishery has yet to be determined, DEH undertook an assessment of the current operation of the Lobster Fishery against the criteria of the EPBC Act, to provide for continued export approval for the Lobster Fishery after 1 December 2005. The submission has been assessed for the purposes of the protected species provisions of Part 13 and the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act. The assessment took account of the proposed measures in the draft FMS contained within the above EIS provided by DPI.

I consider that the NSW Lobster Fishery 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 in the short term. 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 longer term. Hence, 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 12 months and is subject to the conditions set out in Attachment A. This declaration also allows for the completion of the current EIA process and for DPI to demonstrate in the short term that the environmental risks identified in the DEH assessment will be addressed in the revised longer term management arrangements for the fishery.

Officers from our two departments have discussed key areas requiring ongoing and increased attention including a number of recommended actions. The recommendations (Attachment B) have been an important factor in my decision to declare the fishery a short term WTO and I look forward to receiving your confirmation that they will be implemented. I 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 (12 months) and all WTO conditions would continue to apply.

I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fishery currently require that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed and 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. Hence, the management arrangements for the NSW Lobster Fishery meet the requirements of Part 13 of the EPBC Act and I propose to accredit the management arrangements accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management arrangements are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species in Commonwealth waters.

DEH will be able to make an assessment of the new management arrangements for the Lobster Fishery once they are brought into force by your approval of the final FMS.

I look forward to being advised by DPI of the determination of the FMS for the NSW Lobster Fishery and making new decisions regarding the export approval of this fishery.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

ANDREW MCNEE
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

29 November 2005

Conditions

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 NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) will advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) 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.
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to the DEH quarterly, and to include:
    • information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of DPI in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the NSW Lobster Fishery 2005; and
    • a description of the status of the fishery and catch and effort information.

Recommendations

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.