Benchmarks for the environmental assessment of fisheries
Department of the Environment and Heritage
- The environmental assessment must be conducted under State or Australian Government legislation.
- Terms of reference for the assessment must require the preparation of an assessment report that assesses all impacts of the fishery on the environment and provides enough information to allow the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage to make an informed decision on whether the fishery is ecologically sustainable.
In particular, the terms of reference must ensure the assessment report addresses at least the matters set out in Attachment A.
The terms of reference must be prepared in consultation with the Department of the Environment and Heritage.
- A draft assessment report must be prepared in accordance with the terms of reference for the assessment. The draft report must be released for public comment for a period of at least 28 days. The draft report shall not be released for public comment until the Department of the Environment and Heritage has confirmed that the draft report adequately addresses the terms of reference (including the matters at Attachment A).
- An invitation to the public to provide comments on the draft assessment report must be published in newspapers circulating generally in the relevant State and self-governing Territory and nationally. The invitation must include:
- A brief description of the fishery;
- Information on how the relevant documents may be obtained; and
- The deadline for public comments (being a date not less than 28 days after the date of publication of the invitation).
- Special arrangements should be made, as appropriate, to ensure that affected groups with particular communication needs have adequate opportunity to comment on the assessment. Indigenous people affected by the fishery may have particular communication needs and should have an adequate opportunity, where appropriate, to comment on the assessment.
- The final assessment report must clearly address any comments received from the public and from the Department of the Environment and Heritage during the public comment period.
- Documentation about each assessment must be made available to the public. However, access to relevant documents may be restricted to the extent that access to assessment documentation is restricted under Part 8 of the EPBC Act.
Terms of reference - Environmental assessment of fisheries
- Description of the fishery
- The environment likely to be affected by the fishery
- Proposed Management Arrangements for the fishery
- Environmental Assessment of the Fishery
- Management measures and safeguards to ensure ecological sustainability
- Monitoring and Alternatives
- Information Sources
The assessment must include a comprehensive description of the fishery and its characteristics including (but not limited to) the agency responsible for management of the fishery, species caught, fishing methods, the area fished (including a map), the number of operators and historic and current fishing effort.
The assessment must provide a detailed description of the environment likely to be affected by the fishery. This description must identify significant environmental characteristics of the area likely to be affected by the fishery: for example; marine protected areas, components of biodiversity, threatened and other protected species, a description of seagrass and benthic communities, important features such as coral reefs, seamounts and estuaries, and other aspects of the biophysical environment potentially affected by the operation of the fishery.
The assessment must include a description of legislation, and policies, that are relevant to the management of the fishery and its environmental impacts and the agencies that are responsible for administration of relevant legislation and the policies. International agreements that affect the management of the fishery should also be identified.
The assessment must set out the specific management arrangements that will be applied to the fishery. Accordingly, the assessment must identify (amongst other things) any management plan for the fishery, any bycatch action plan, relevant regulations and any strategic research plan for the fishery.
The assessment must specifically identify elements of the management regime for the fishery that are intended to ensure that the fishery operates in an ecologically sustainable manner. (See item 5 below.)
The assessment must include a comprehensive analysis of the potential impacts of the fishery on the environment.
The assessment must specifically address all aspects of the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. In particular, the assessment must demonstrate that the fishery is ecologically sustainable in terms of its impact on:
- target species;
- non-target species and bycatch: and
- the eco-system generally (including habitat).
In particular, the assessment must include:
- a description of the potential impacts of the fishery on the environment
(including, to the extent possible, information on the degree of
confidence with which the impacts can be predicted and quantified);
- an analysis of the nature and extent of the likely environmental
impacts including whether the impacts will be short term or long term
- an assessment of whether any environmental impacts are likely to be
unknown, unpredictable or irreversible;
- an analysis of the significance of the potential impacts; and
- reference to the technical data and other information relied upon in
assessing the environmental impacts of the fishery.
The assessment shall include consideration of impacts associated with the conduct of the fishery, such as the discharge of waste and other pollution risks (including lost gear).
This section of the assessment must provide a detailed analysis of the specific elements of the proposed management regime for the fishery that are designed to ensure the fishery is ecologically sustainable. In particular, this section of the assessment must demonstrate that the management arrangements for the fishery are consistent with the requirements of the Guidelines.
The assessment must identify and describe the specific measures intended to prevent, minimise or compensate for the potential environmental impacts of the fishery, and any measures to rehabilitate damage to the environment. The assessment should include an analysis of the expected or predicted effectiveness of these measures. (The assessment should distinguish between those measures designed to protect target species, and those measures designed to protect the ecosystem generally including non-target species and habitat).
A consolidated list of relevant measures should be included.
The assessment should identify the basis (eg, statutory or policy) for implementation of each measure and the agency or authority responsible for ensuring implementation. The assessment must also identify how the relevant agency or authority will ensure compliance with these measures, and what steps will be taken in the event of non-compliance.
The assessment should identify the mechanisms for reviewing the environmental impact of the fishery during the life of the proposed management arrangements, and for adjusting the life of the proposed management arrangements, and for adjusting elements of the management arrangements as necessary in response to the outcome of these reviews.
The assessment must also identify any program that is proposed to be put in place to monitor the impacts of the fishery on the environment in the short and long term.
Any proposed independent environmental auditing mechanism should be identified.
The assessment should, to the extent reasonably practicable, describe any feasible alternatives to the proposed management arrangements (or elements of those arrangements). The alternatives should be discussed in sufficient detail to make clear the reasons for preferring certain options and rejecting others. Discussion should cover matters such as alternative fishing methods and technologies, increasing or reducing permitted levels of effort, alternative mechanisms for controlling effort, and other alternative measures for preventing or minimising environmental impact.
For information in the assessment, the assessment must state:
- the source of the information;
- how recent the information is;
- how the reliability of the information was tested; and
- what uncertainties (if any) are in the information.