Queensland East Coast Spanish Mackerel Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 30 October 2004

The Hon Henry Palaszczuk MLA
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 East Coast Spanish Mackerel Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In May 2004 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the East Coast Spanish Mackerel 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/assessment/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 East Coast Spanish Mackerel 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 the 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 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

[Signed]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

30 October 2004

Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Queensland East Coast Spanish Mackerel Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Queensland East Coast Spanish Mackerel Fishery management regime made under the Queensland Fisheries Regulations 1995 in force under the Fisheries Act 1994;
  2. The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) to 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 East Coast Spanish Mackerel 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 (DPI&F) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland East Coast Spanish Mackerel Fishery

The Queensland East Coast Spanish Mackerel 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 welcomes the commitment by DPI&F to continue to manage the fishery in a precautionary and sustainable manner that will take into account the requirements expressed through the recommendations presented below.

The East Coast Spanish Mackerel Fishery has an adequate management regime including a Total Allowable Catch limit, limited entry, closed areas, gear restrictions, size and bag limits that should enable the fishery to continue to be ecologically sustainable in the short to medium term. Stocks are not currently overfished and management arrangements provide the basis to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that will not lead to over-fishing.

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

Recommendation 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.

Recommendation 2. 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.

Recommendation 3. As part of the biennial review of the ECSMF, DPI&F develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for target, bycatch, protected species and impacts on the ecosystem.

Recommendation 4. DPI&F to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the performance measures once developed. Within 3 months of becoming aware of a performance measure not being met, DPI&F to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.

Recommendation 5. DPI&F to monitor the size composition of the retained commercial catch of Spanish mackerel and conduct a review of the fishery appropriate to the magnitude of the change if the proportion of catch of pre-mature fish increases above 5% of the TACC. If necessary DPI&F to introduce additional management measures to ensure sustainability.

Recommendation 6. That DPI&F, at its biennial review of the Recommendation 6. That DPI&F, at its biennial review of the ECSMF, consider means of reducing the capture of undersized and large Spanish mackerel including more effective size selective gear, consider means of reducing the capture of undersized and large Spanish mackerel including more effective size selective gear.

Recommendation 7. DPI&F to develop a compliance strategy for the ECSMF. The strategy will explicitly address the following issues and provide for the periodic review of the effectiveness of the strategy:

  • Effectiveness of shore based compliance activity
  • Non- compliance with size and bag limits
  • The possible existence of a black market
  • Compliance with reporting of protected species interaction
  • Compliance benefits in the adoption of new technology
  • Fishers and processor knowledge of new compliance requirements

Recommendation 8. As part of the next biennial review of the ECSMF, DPI&F to develop a robust and regular fishery assessment process, that provides a basis for management decisions which are precautionary and recognise the uncertainty and level of risk. The assessment process will examine the ecological sustainability of the target species using robust stock assessments.

Recommendation 9. As part of the biennial review of the ECSMF, DPI&F to consider the protection of Spanish mackerel spawning aggregations. If necessary, DPI&F to implement measures to protect them within 18 months of such finding.

Recommendation 10. DPI&F to develop a system to ensure that catch data collected in compulsory logbooks and voluntary diaries is validated on an ongoing basis and to investigate methods for documenting and validating effort in the fishery.

Recommendation 11. 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.

Recommendation 12. DPI&F, as part of the development of performance indicators and performance measures for the fishery, to include a mechanism to identify and respond to changes in the composition and quantity of bycatch in the ECSMF.

Recommendation 13. Within 18 months, DPI&F to provide reliable estimates of recreational take, and factor these into stock assessments and management controls to ensure overall catch levels are sustainable.

Recommendation 14. As part of its biennial review, DPI&F to examine measures designed to control Spanish mackerel harvest by recreational fishers to ensure that they 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 within 12 months.