Northern Territory Demersal Fishery - Ministerial decision 2004

Ministerial Decision
Commonwealth of Australia Gazette GN 20, 19 May 2004

The Hon. Kon Vatskalis MP
Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries
GPO Box 3146
Darwin NT 0801

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as the Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Northern Territory Demersal Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In June 2002 the Northern Territory Fisheries submitted the document Assessing the Ecological Sustainability of the Northern Territory Demersal Fishery for assessment under the Act.

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.

I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the Department of the Environment and Heritage website at:

www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fishery 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 Northern Territory Demersal Fishery meet the requirements of Part 13 of the 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.

I am satisfied that for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions in part 13A of the EPBC Act, the management arrangements provide the basis for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I therefore propose to amend the list of exempt native specimens, to include specimens that are or are derived from fish taken in the Northern Territory Demersal Fishery, excluding specimens that are listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, for a period of five years. Such listing will serve to exempt the fishery from the export controls of the EPBC Act, providing the fishery continues not to involve the export of specimens listed on the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

The management arrangements for the fishery meet the Australian Government's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fishery is well managed under a comprehensive, adaptable, precautionary and ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. The combination of management arrangements, data gathering, proposed research and nature of the fishery allows confidence that the fishery managers will maintain low bycatch levels, minimise interaction with protected species and manage impacts on the wider ecosystem.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that NT Fisheries is addressing them adequately. Officers from our two departments have discussed key areas requiring ongoing attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on ensuring the continuation of good management practices, to be implemented before the next Commonwealth review of the fishery. These recommendations, attached to the letter, have been an important factor in my decision to exempt 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 I look forward to reviewing the remainder of the Northern Territory managed fisheries.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

April 2004


Recommendations to the Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development on the ecologically sustainable management of the Northern Territory Demersal Fishery

The NT Demersal Fishery is a well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. These measures include:

  • A limited number of operators (and current small number of active operators) coupled with input controls (catch, area and gear restrictions).
  • Clearly articulated management objectives, performance indicators, trigger reference points and management responses to be taken are provided for the majority of target species, byproduct and bycatch species as well as interactions with protected species and the ecosystem.
  • As of 2004, the annual status report will report on management objectives, performance indicators and triggers and how the Demersal Fishery is performing against these criteria.
  • Undertaking a compliance risk assessment by December 2004.
  • Undertaking a risk assessment of bycatch vulnerability, including endangered, threatened or protected species, caught in the fishery, by December 2004.
  • Formalising guidelines for reviewing management arrangements once target, byproduct and/or bycatch reference points and triggers are reached, by December 2004.
  • Continuing to refine logbook data entry processes together with validation of market returns.
  • Any adverse impacts from fishing detected in the Timor Reef Fishery will be investigated in the Demersal fishery.
  • Undertaking onboard monitoring of the fishery by fisheries observers if the fishing effort within the demersal fishery continues to increase by a further 40% during the next two calendar years.

The following recommendations have been made to further strengthen the effectiveness of the management arrangements for the fishery and minimise environmental risks in the medium to longer term. The Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development should action these recommendations before the next review in 2009.

Recommendation 1: NT Fisheries to inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any changes to the management regime that may impact on the ecological sustainability of the NT Demersal Fishery.

Recommendation 2: NT Fisheries to move towards analysing effort using a more accurate measure of effort in the fishery than days fished.

Recommendation 3: NT Fisheries to undertake a risk assessment of the species making up the groupings of Red Snapper, Goldband Snapper and Cod in order to establish greater confidence that there are no individual species that are particularly vulnerable or susceptible to fishing and may require additional management responses. In the event that a species is found to be particularly vulnerable NT Fisheries to implement appropriate management responses within 12 months.

Recommendation 4: NT Fisheries to maintain data validation mechanisms for target, byproduct, bycatch and protected species interactions and implement alternative data collection validation techniques if observer trips are no longer feasible or are insufficient to provide robust information on the fishery.

Recommendation 5: NT Fisheries to continue to seek alternative cost effective fishery independent sampling techniques and report outcomes in annual status report.

Recommendation 6: NT Fisheries to continue to work towards more refined yield estimates of principle target species to determine sustainable harvest levels, particularly for Goldband Snapper. By 2006 NT Fisheries to implement an interim precautionary trigger reference point for Goldband Snapper.

Recommendation 7: NT Fisheries to determine spatial distribution of effort and catch in the fishery and investigate the risk of localised depletions by 2006. In the event that significant risks are identified, NT Fisheries to implement appropriate mitigation measures in a timely manner.

Recommendation 8: NT Fisheries to continue to cooperate with other relevant jurisdictions to pursue complementary management and research of shared stocks for all target and by-product species, that may be affected by cross-jurisdictional issues.

Recommendation 9: NT Fisheries to monitor the species composition of bycatch and byproduct with a view to undertaking a more rigorous risk analysis, if there is a significant increase in the catch of individual species.

Recommendation 10: NT Fisheries to continue to monitor the proportion of juvenile/adult snapper landed and implement appropriate management strategies, such as temporal/spatial restrictions, as appropriate.