Northern Territory Mud Crab Fishery - Ministerial decision 2002

Ministerial Decision
David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 12 September 2002

The Hon Paul Henderson MLC
Minister for Business, Industry and Resource Development
GPO BOX 3000
Darwin NT 0801

Dear Minister

In August 2001 the Fisheries Division of the Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development (NT Fisheries) submitted the document Assessing the Ecologically Sustainability of the Northern Territory Mud Crab for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The submission has been assessed by my department in accordance with 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 EA website at: www.ea.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

I am satisfied that it is unlikely that fishing operations conducted in accordance with the management arrangements will adversely affect the conservation status of protected species, or affect the survival and recovery of threatened species. The Mud Crab Fishery Management Plan 1991 (NT) requires 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 Mud Crab (NTMC) Fishery meet the requirements of Part 13 of the Act and I will accredit the management plan accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management plan are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species.

I am satisfied that for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions in part 13A of the EPBC Act, the Plan provides the basis for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I shall therefore amend the list of exempt native specimens, including green mud crab Scylla serrata and mud crab Scylla olivacea, for a period of five years. Such listing will serve to exempt the fishery from other export controls of the Act and exempt exporters from requiring export permits under the Act.

The Mud Crab Fishery Management Plan 1991 (NT) meets the Commonwealth's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fishery is managed under a comprehensive and adaptable 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 target species provides confidence in the fishery's ability to maintain relatively 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 some key areas requiring ongoing attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions to be implemented before the next Commonwealth review of the fishery. These are focussed on ensuring the continuation and enhancement of good management practices. The agreed recommendations are attached. I look forward to your support in ensuring that these recommendations are implemented.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this task and I look forward to reviewing the remainder of the Northern Territory managed fisheries.

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

David Kemp
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

12 September 2002


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

Before the next review in 2007, the Northern Territory will:

Recommendation 1. Incorporate recreational and indigenous catch in stock and ecosystem assessments.

Recommendation 2. Continue existing complementary arrangements, provided under Memorandums of Understanding, to consider the proportion of the mud crab stock being caught in Western Australian and Queensland waters in any research, assessment or management response.

Recommendation 3. Develop guidelines for undertaking review of fishery management plans once reference points and triggers are reached. In the absence of such guidelines being developed, a timetable for the review process will be incorporated into the mud crab fishery management plan.

Recommendation 4. Link the objectives, performance indicators, trigger points and management responses already established by NT Fisheries together and incorporate them into the management plan.

Recommendation 5. Incorporate the outcomes from current habitat mapping in future management arrangements for the fishery.

Recommendation 6. Review the appropriateness and effectiveness of existing bait net provisions and log books, particularly in relation to capture of, and interaction with, species listed for protection under relevant State or Commonwealth legislation.

Recommendation 7. Undertake a risk assessment of the removal of the mud crab from the ecosystem. The risk assessment will consider the impact of the removal of mud crabs on ecologically related and dependant species. The National Research Priorities for Mud Crabs is to have regard to the outcomes of this risk assessment.

Recommendation 8. Incorporate outcomes from the risk assessment described in recommendation 7 into the management of the fishery. This may include development of objectives and performance indicators that relate to that risk assessment. It may also include identification of areas that are sensitive to fishing.