Northern Territory Aquarium Fishery - Recommendations Update Letter 2006

Recommendations Update Letter
Andrew McNee, Assistant Secretary, Marine Environment Branch, Department of the Environment and Heritage
November 2006

Mr Bill Flaherty
A/Executive Director
Fisheries
Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries and Mines
GPO Box 3000
DARWIN  NT  0801

Dear Mr Flaherty

Thankyou for your letter of 3 July 2006, seeking an extension to the Department of the Environment and Heritage’s (DEH) recommendations for the Northern Territory (NT) Aquarium Fishery.

As you would be aware, the NT Aquarium Fishery was declared a Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) on 29 June 2005. The recommendations that you referred to in your letter (recommendations 2, 3, 5 and 7) were to be addressed within 12 months of the WTO declaration for the NT Aquarium Fishery being gazetted (see Attachment A). It is now understood that, due to limited resources, the Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries and Mines (DPIFM) have been unable to address these recommendations within the nominated timeframe.

While the NT Aquarium Fishery is a relatively small scale fishery, these recommendations address specific issues which must be managed to ensure that their impacts are minimised. Conditions and recommendations were developed by DEH, and agreed with the then NT Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development to address these issues and improve management of the fishery. DEH received confirmation from the then Minister, the Hon Kon Vatskalis MLA, on 2 August 2005 that these recommendations would be implemented in full. While I understand that DPIFM has limited resources, an important consideration in the Delegate of the Minster’s decision to declare the NT Aquarium Fishery a WTO was agreement to the conditions and recommendations.
However, while DEH is concerned with the inability of DPIFM to implement recommendations within the nominated timeframe, I believe that DPIFM is committed to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive steps in some areas.

I understand that a workshop is scheduled for October 2006, at which an environmental risk assessment (ERA) will be conducted on the NT Aquarium Fishery. This will partially address recommendation 7 and I anticipate that appropriate responses will be developed for any high risks identified. The results of this risk assessment should also be used to address other recommendations, including recommendations 2, 3 and 5.

In recognition of the scheduled ERA workshop, the current low activity in the fishery and existing management arrangements including limited entry, gear restrictions and area restrictions, I am willing to extend the timeframe for recommendations 2, 3, 5 and 7 until 31 December 2006. This will allow the completion of the ERA and associated commitments, as mentioned in your letter of   3 July 2006.

I have included a full list of conditions and recommendations for the NT Aquarium Fishery at Attachment A for your information.

While the inability of DPIFM to meet these recommendations is unlikely to affect the immediate sustainability of the target species, these issues and recommendations need to be addressed for the longer term sustainability of aquarium fish stocks. Please note, that should recommendations associated with the WTO declaration for the NT Aquarium Fishery continue to not be implemented, the Minister could revoke the declaration. Furthermore, if the Minister is satisfied that a condition on the WTO has been contravened, the he must revoke the declaration. If the declaration is revoked, export of product from this fishery would no longer be permitted and would be an offence under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

I note that one of the conditions (Attachment A) on the WTO declaration for the NT Aquarium Fishery requires that DPIFM provide a report on the fishery to DEH annually and to date, no such report has been received. I look forward to receiving the annual report, completed ERA and confirmation that associated commitments have been met by 31 December 2006.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Andrew McNee
Assistant Secretary
Marine Environment Branch
Department of the Environment and Heritage

November 2006


Conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Northern Territory Aquarium Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the NT Aquarium Fishery management regime in force under the NT Fisheries Act 1988 and the NT Fisheries Regulations 1993.
  2. The NT Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development (DBIRD) will advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any material change to the NT Aquarium Fishery’s legislated management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) decisions are based, within three months of that change being made.
  3. The declaration covers the NT Aquarium Fishery only to the extent that the NT Aquarium Fishery relates to specimens that:
    1. are not listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, or
    2. are listed marine species that are not taken in the Commonwealth marine area, or
    3. are listed marine species that are taken in the Commonwealth marine area according to the specifications of a wildlife conservation plan negotiated between DBIRD and DEH.
  4. Reports to be produced and presented to DEH annually, and to include:
    • information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of DBIRD in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Northern Territory Aquarium Fishery 2005;
    • a description of the status of the fishery and catch and effort information;
    • a statement of the performance of the fishery against objectives, performance indicators and measures once developed; and
    • research undertaken or completed relevant to the fishery.

Recommendations to the Northern Territory (NT) Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development (DBIRD) on the ecologically sustainable management of the NT Aquarium Fishery

Recommendations

  1. DBIRD to advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any material change to the NT Aquarium Fishery’s management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) decisions are based, within 3 months of that change being made.
  2. By 31 December 2006, DBIRD to develop fishery specific performance indicators and performance measures, linked to the existing objectives, for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed species, EPBC Act listed species, Group A Finfish species and hermit crabs.
  3. DBIRD to incorporate the performance measures into existing management arrangements once developed. Within 3 months of becoming aware of a performance measure not being met, DBIRD to finalise a clear timetable for a review of management arrangements and the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  4. DBIRD to implement finer spatial recording of catch and effort information, and recording of catch to a species level for key target species, CITES listed species and EPBC Act listed species in compulsory commercial logbooks.
  5. By 31 December 2006, DBIRD to develop precautionary sustainable limits for hermit crabs, Group A finfish species, EPBC Act listed species and CITES listed species based on existing knowledge. DBIRD to pursue research into the stock status, biology and ecology of these species on an ongoing basis within resource constraints.
  6. Within 2 years DBIRD to investigate the potential for localised and serial depletion of target species within the fishery and to implement management measures to mitigate any risks identified where necessary.
  7. DBIRD to conduct an ecological risk assessment on the fishery by 31 December 2006 and to develop appropriate responses to any high risks identified.