Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Margaret Tailby, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 15 October 2004

The Hon Henry Palaszczuk MP
Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries
Primary Industries Building
GPO Box 46
Brisbane QLD 4001

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In October 2003 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot 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 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: http://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 Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot 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 the operation of the fishery is consistent with objects of the wildlife trade provisions in Part 13A of the Act. I am also satisfied that it is unlikely to be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon, to which the fishery operation relates, or threaten any relevant ecosystem. The fishery is relatively well managed and operates under an adaptable and precautionary ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. Performance against the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries is adequate, however there are a number of issues that need to be addressed to contain environmental risks in the longer term. Hence, I propose to declare the fishery an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the Act. This declaration would allow the export of product from the fishery for the next three years. I will make the declaration subject to the conditions at Attachment A.

I also propose to include product from this WTO fishery on the List of Exempt Native Specimens so that exporters would not require EPBC Act export permits. The fishery would continue to operate as a WTO for the period of the declaration (3 years) and all WTO conditions would continue to apply.

The management regime aims to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing and for fishing operations to be managed to minimise their impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem. On balance, the fishery is being managed in an ecologically sustainable manner and is working to address existing problems and to minimise environmental risks.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that DPI&F is committed to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive steps in some areas. Officers from our two departments have discussed key areas requiring ongoing and increased attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on addressing key issues, to be implemented before the next review of the fishery. The recommendations (Attachment B) have been an important factor in my decision to declare the fishery a WTO 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.

Yours sincerely

Margaret Tailby
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
15 October 2004

Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration wild for the Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot Fishery

Conditions on a declared WTO

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot Fishery management regime in force under the Fisheries Act 1994 and the Fisheries Regulation 1995;
  2. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any intended amendments to the Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot Fishery management regime that may affect the sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem;
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to DEH annually, and to include:
    • information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of DPI&F in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot Fishery 2004;
    • 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 Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot Fishery

The Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Pot Fishery is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery.

DEH recognises that the minimum legal size limit and prohibition on the take of female crab are conservative and that the life history characteristics of the blue swimmer crab render it somewhat robust to fishing. As such, DEH considers that overall the management regime aims to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing and for fishing operations to be managed to minimise their impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem.

DEH welcomes DPI&F's commitment to develop a management plan for the fishery by 2006. This provides a significant opportunity to introduce improvements in the management of the fishery. DEH has a linked a number of recommendations to this management planning process and finalisation of this plan will be an important consideration in the next review of this fishery.

While the fishery is relatively well managed, a number of risks and uncertainties that must be managed to ensure that their impacts are minimised have been identified. The following recommendations aim to address these risks and uncertainties. DPI&F should action these recommendations before the next review in 2007 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations

  1. DPI&F to inform DEH of any intended amendments to the management arrangements that may affect sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem.
  2. DPI&F to actively engage with New South Wales in pursuit of collaborative or complementary management and research of shared blue swimmer crab stocks.
  3. As part of the management planning process, or no later than December 2006, DPI&F to develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for target, bycatch, protected species and impacts on the ecosystem.
  4. DPI&F to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the performance measures once developed. Within 3 months of becoming aware that a performance measure not being met, DPI&F to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  5. DPI&F to develop a compliance strategy for the blue swimmer crab fishery. The strategy will explicitly address the following issues and provide for the periodic review of the effectiveness of the strategy (by end 2007):
    • Commercial and recreational catch and effort data validation;
    • Compliance with commercial and recreational gear restrictions (type and number);
    • Compliance with restriction on the take of female crabs and minimum size limit in the commercial and recreational sectors;
    • The potential for Queensland harvested female and undersize crabs to be laundered in other jurisdictions with different management measures; and
    • The 'black market' sale of recreationally caught crabs.
  6. From 2005, DPI&F to report publicly on the status of the fishery on an annual basis, including explicit reporting against each performance measure once developed.
  7. DPI&F to develop a system to ensure that catch data collected in compulsory logbooks is validated on an ongoing basis and to investigate methods for documenting and validating effort in the fishery.
  8. As part of the management planning process, or no later than December 2006, DPI&F to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of current management arrangements for the offshore component of the fishery with regard to the sustainable harvest of the target species, minimisation of bycatch and interactions with threatened species.
  9. By 31 December 2004, DPI&F to develop a strategy to remove or substantially reduce the amount of latent effort in the fishery. The strategy is to include clearly defined management actions linked to specific timeframes. DPI&F to implement the strategy prior to the introduction of the management plan.
  10. As part of the management planning process, DPI&F to review existing management measures designed to control blue swimmer crab harvest by recreational fishers to ensure that these measures are appropriate and adequately constrain recreational effort to within sustainable levels. Should the review indicate that existing measures are not appropriate DPI&F will develop new measures in a timely manner.
  11. DPI&F to identify fishery areas at risk of overfishing within two years. DPI&F to undertake independent surveys in these areas with a view to detecting any significant changes in crab abundance and take appropriate management action to address resource sustainability concerns.
  12. DPI&F to develop a system for the collection and monitoring of information on discarded undersize and female blue swimmer crab and key bycatch species sufficient to enable identification of long-term trends in bycatch and discards.
  13. Within one year, to support the implementation of the Species of Conservation Interest logbooks, DPI&F to ensure that an education program for fishers, both recreational and commercial, is developed and implemented, to promote the importance of protected species protection and accurate incident reporting.
  14. DPI&F will implement measures to mitigate interaction with protected species at risk of interacting with the fishery, in particular measures to mitigate against capture and entanglement of marine turtles, to ensure that any risks to protected species can be minimised. DPI&F to also identify areas of the fishery where the risk of protected species interactions is higher, and to take appropriate management actions.