Queensland Coral Fishery

Environmental assessment under the EPBC Act
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 14 February 2006

The Hon Tim Mulherin MP
Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries
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 Coral Fishery (QCF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). In December 2005 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological assessment of the Queensland Coral Fishery for assessment under the EPBC 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 QCF is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) website at: www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/assessment/index.html.

I am satisfied that the operation of the QCF is consistent with the objects of the wildlife trade provisions in Part 13A of the EPBC 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 QCF is relatively well managed and operates under an adaptable and precautionary 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.

In particular, I believe that the Queensland Coral Fishery Policy (the Policy), upon which the assessment was largely based, requires close monitoring to ensure its successful implementation in the fishery. I understand that the Policy will be reviewed 12 months after implementation and consider that the fishery should be closely monitored during this time to ensure ongoing ecological sustainability.

Hence, I propose to declare the QCF an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the EPBC Act in the short term. This declaration would allow the export of product from the fishery for the next two years. I will make the declaration subject to the conditions at Attachment A and will review this decision after the Policy has been reviewed and new management arrangements successfully implemented.

As you are aware, the majority of fisheries approved as WTOs are placed on the List of Exempt Native Specimens (LENS) so that exporters do not require EPBC Act export permits. As the QCF harvests species listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), listing under the LENS is not possible due to international obligations to monitor trade. Exporters will therefore be required to apply to DEH for CITES permits to export coral species.

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 QCF 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 a range of 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 Australian Government 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 am satisfied that the management arrangements for the QCFrequire 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 QCF meet the requirements of Part 13 of the EPBC 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 would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment.

Yours sincerely

[Signed Andrew McNee]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

21 June 2006

Attachment A

CONDITIONS ON THE APPROVED WILDLIFE TRADE DECLARATION FOR THE QUEENSLAND CORAL FISHERY (QCF)

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the QCF management regime in force under the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994 and the Queensland 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 management arrangements that may affect 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 Coral Fishery 2006;
    • 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.

Attachment B

Recommendations to the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland Coral Fishery (QCF)

The QCF is a relatively well-managed fishery and the Policy for the Management of the Coral Fishery (the Policy) contains a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. These include limited entry, Total Allowable Catch limits and individual quotas, area quotas, gear restrictions and area closures, which should enable the fishery to be ecologically sustainable in the short to medium term. Stocks are not currently overfished and the management arrangements provide the basis to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that will not lead to over-fishing.

While management is appropriately precautionary, issues that must be managed to ensure that their impacts are minimised include the lack of a compliance strategy, lack of data validation, risk of localised depletion in high use areas and absence of fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and measures to manage and monitor the performance of the fishery. 

As the QCF harvests coral listed under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, special consideration is needed to ensure the ecological sustainability of these species and to ensure that international conventions are being adequately addressed.

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 the Department of the Environment and Heritage 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. Within 6 months of the Queensland Policy for the Management of the Coral Fishery being implemented, DPI&F, in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), to conduct a compliance risk assessment for the QCF. DPI&F to develop and implement strategies to address all identified risks (other than risks categorised as low) within 3 months of their identification.
  3. Within 18 months of the implementation of the Queensland Policy for the Management of the Coral Fishery, DPI&F, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, 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, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the fishery specific objectives, performance indicators and performance measures specified in the QCF management regime once developed. Within 3 months of becoming aware of a breach in a performance indicator or a performance measure not being met, DPI&F to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  5. DPI&F to implement data validation mechanisms for fishery dependent data for the QCF within 6 months.
  6. DPI&F to finalise a data sharing agreement with GBRMPA and QPWS within six months of the start of the WTO.
  7. DPI&F to develop a research strategy for the QCF within 18 months. DPI&F will cooperate with other Australian jurisdictions with marine aquarium fisheries to facilitate research.
  8. Within 3 months of the review of the Policy DPI&F, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, will develop and implement a process to review the risk of localised depletion in high use areas in the fishery. DPI&F will review available catch data, identify any harvest areas and species groups at risk of localised depletion and, where necessary, develop and implement management measures to mitigate any risks.
  9. Within 18 months, DPI&F to develop a process to improve estimates of recreational and Indigenous take and factor these, along with permitted take under research and other relevant permits, into fishery assessments and management controls to ensure overall catch levels are sustainable.