New South Wales Ocean Trawl Fishery - - Ministerial decision June 2006

Ministerial Decision
Andrew McNee, Delegate for the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 7 June 2006

The Hon Ian Macdonald MLC
Minister for Primary Industries
Parliament House
Macquarie Street
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 Ocean Trawl Fishery (OTF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).  I wrote to you on 29 November 2005 advising that I had declared the OTF an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) for a 3 month period, subject to a number of conditions, and also accredited the fishery under the protected species provisions of Part 13 of the EPBC Act.  At the time I noted the concerns with the ecological sustainability of the existing operations of the fishery. One of the key conditions of the short term WTO was for NSW DPI to implement management arrangements to improve the ecological sustainability of the OTF. 

I wrote to you again on 24 February 2006 advising of my decision to extend the existing WTO for the OTF until 30 June 2006 to allow NSW DPI to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process for the fishery and bring into effect a range of new management measures to enhance the ecologically sustainable management of the OTF.

I acknowledge your determination of 7 June 2006 under the provisions of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 that requires, as an outcome of the EIA process for the OTF, substantial modifications to the fishery to address a range of environmental impacts due to the fishery’s activities. I also note that these modifications will primarily be implemented through the Fishery Management Strategy (FMS) that was part of the Environmental Impact Statement for the fishery. The resultant measures arising from your determination of the fishery should substantially enhance performance assessment, catch monitoring, stock assessment, spatial management, bycatch reduction and control of overall fishing effort and should significantly improve the ecological sustainability of the OTF in the medium to longer term. Accordingly, I have decided to extend the current WTO for the OTF until 28 November 2008.  Please note that the WTO is subject to the conditions at Attachment A.

One of the key conditions requires the FMS to be amended in accordance with your determination of 7 June 2006 and formally approved by the end of 2006. The FMS provides a comprehensive framework for the ongoing management of the fishery and is the key component for implementing the range of measures resulting from the EIA process to improve the ecological sustainability of the OTF.  Therefore, I consider it should remain a high priority with NSW DPI to ensure that the final FMS is brought into effect as soon as possible.  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 WTO declaration.

The accreditation under Part 13 of the EPBC Act granted in November 2005 will continue to apply to the fishery.
While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that NSW DPI is committed, through the FMS and other outcomes of the EIA process, to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive steps in some areas.  To supplement the actions arising from the EIA process, officers from our two departments have identified a range of additional issues and have recommended actions to improve the ecologically sustainable management of the fishery in the short to medium term.  The recommendations (Attachment B) have been an important factor, along with the outcomes of the EIA process, in my decision to extend the duration of the WTO for the fishery and I look forward to receiving your confirmation that they will be implemented.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment and look forward to your formal endorsement of the conditions and recommendations attached to the WTO extension and receiving the final version of the approved FMS for the fishery.

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

7 June 2006


Attachment A

Conditions on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the New South Wales Ocean Trawl Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the management regime in force under the New South Wales Fisheries Management Act 1994.
  2. The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any material change to the Ocean Trawl Fishery’s management arrangements that could negatively affect the assessment of the fishery against the criteria of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, within three months of that change being made.
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to DEH annually, and to include:
    1. information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of DPI in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the New South Wales Ocean Trawl Fishery June 2006; and
    2. the status of the Ocean Trawl Fishery’s performance indicators compared to the trigger points.
  4. The Fishery Management Strategy for the Ocean Trawl Fishery be finalised and approved by December 2006.

Attachment B

Recommendations for the extended Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the New South Wales Ocean Trawl Fishery

  1. NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to advise the Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any material change to the Ocean Trawl Fishery’s (OTF) management arrangements that could negatively affect the assessment of the fishery against the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) criteria, within three months of that change being made.
  2. When determining acceptable ranges for performance indicators as a part of a review, DPI to use ecological sustainability as a primary consideration.
  3. DPI to develop and implement a compliance plan for commercial designated fishing activities including the OTF within 12 months of the approval of the Fishery Management Strategy (FMS).  The compliance plan should be regularly monitored and reviewed.
  4. DPI to implement finer scale temporal and spatial logbook reporting in the OTF by mid 2008, to improve the robustness of resource assessments and allow for enhanced cross-jurisdictional cooperation.
  5. DPI to develop and implement a robust system to validate catch and effort logbook data by mid 2008.   
  6. DPI to implement a system to improve the identification and recording of elasmobranch species taken in the OTF.
  7. DPI to develop a robust and regular fishery assessment process that provides a basis for management decisions, which are precautionary and recognise the uncertainty and level of risk.  The assessment process will examine the exploitation status of the primary and key secondary species using appropriate resource assessment tiers, within 3 years.
  8. DPI to institute programs to provide appropriate estimates of the harvest rates of OTF primary and key secondary species by the recreational and indigenous sectors, and incorporate these data into the fishery resource assessment process.
  9. DPI to manage effort in each of the five sectors of the OTF with the aim of achieving ecologically sustainable levels and to actively pursue a reduction in latent effort in the OTF.  DPI to provide DEH, within 12 months of the approval of the FMS, with a timeline, including associated milestones and trigger points, for achieving an ecologically sustainable level of fishing effort for each sector of the OTF.
  10. DPI to implement the management arrangements outlined in the FMS relating to school whiting (target catch range, trigger points, gear and area restrictions) within 12 months of the approval of the FMS.
  11. DPI to develop and implement appropriate mechanisms, by November 2008, to promote a high level of compliance with the effort management measures and fishery closures outlined in the FMS.
  12. DPI to cooperate with other relevant jurisdictions to pursue complementary management and research of shared stocks for all relevant primary and key secondary OTF species that provide for sustainable harvest limits and effective assessment of stock status.  In particular, DPI will cooperate with:
    • the Australian Fisheries Management Authority in relation to finfish species also harvested by the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, notably ocean perch, silver trevally, redfish and school whiting; and
    • the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries in relation to eastern king prawn.
  13. DPI to develop and implement a recovery strategy for all OTF primary and key secondary species classified as recruitment overfished, within 6 months of the species being so classified.   For species classified as growth overfished, the status of the stock/s will be reviewed and specific measures implemented, as required, within 12 months to prevent the stocks from becoming recruitment overfished.   
  14. By the end of 2007, DPI to develop and implement a system sufficient to identify changes in the composition and quantity of bycatch over time and establish more robust estimates of interactions with threatened and protected species in the OTF.
  15. DPI to continue to pursue a reduction in the amount of bycatch taken in the OTF through the refinement of bycatch mitigation technology and to support the investigation of methods for increasing survivability of bycatch species.
  16. DPI to, before the end of 2008, review the data collected on interactions of the OTF with protected species listed under the EPBC Act and other large species of bycatch.  If the review indicates the OTF has interactions with any protected species listed under the EPBC Act, DPI to introduce appropriate management responses, which may include turtle excluder devices, seal excluder devices and closed areas, into the fishery as a priority.