Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Campbell, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 18 November 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 in relation to the assessment of the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (ECOTF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In March 2003 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl 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 aware of the significant improvements in the management of the ECOTF in recent years, in particular the large decrease in effort that has been achieved. I also acknowledge the work done by DPI&Fto produce the comprehensive Review of the Sustainability of Fishing Effort in the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery that was recently released. The Review highlighted that a number of the target species in the ECOTF are fully-fished, so there is further work to be done to ensure that the fisheries resources of the ECOTF remain sustainable into the future.

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 ECOTF 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, with the exception of the two syngnathid species permitted to be retained, 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. A separate WTO declaration, with exactly the same conditions, will be issued to cover export of the two syngnathid species, however, as these are listed marine species under the Act, exporters will continue to require permits.

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 and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) 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.

I understand that my predecessor, the Hon Dr David Kemp, agreed to provide you with a single set of recommendations regarding the ECOTF that incorporates the assessment of the fishery required under the Act and the findings of the Audit of the Management of the Queensland East Cost Trawl Fishery in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park released by GBRMPA in 2003. I am pleased to provide you with this set of recommendations (at Attachment B).

The recommendations 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 consider the recommendations related to managing effort in the fishery at a sustainable level, implementing a robust fishery assessment process and improving the management of bycatch as particularly significant.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment.

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

Ian Campbell
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

18 November 2004

Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration wild for the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery

Conditions on a declared WTO

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Queensland Fisheries Regulation 1995 and the Queensland Fisheries (East Coast Trawl) Management Plan 1999 in force under the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994
  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 East Coast Otter Trawl 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 East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery 2004 noting that the information provided to the public will be adequate for reporting on recommendations 3, 6 and 16;
    • 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 Otter Trawl Fishery

The Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (ECOTF) is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery.

The ECOTF has an adequate management regime including limited entry, effort caps for the entire fishery and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, numerous permanent and seasonal closures, gear and vessel restrictions and restrictions on the species that may be retained, 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 overfishing.

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 byproduct, bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem.
  2. DPI&F to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the performance measures (review events and/or reference points) specified in the Trawl Plan. Within three months of becoming aware that a performance measure has not been met, DPI&F to finalise a clear timetable to the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  3. From 2005, DPI&F to report publicly on the status of the fishery on an annual basis, including explicit reporting against each performance measure specified in the Trawl Plan.
  4. By the end of 2005, DPI&F to review the adequacy of the current Long Term Monitoring Program (LTMP) for the ECOTF in terms of survey design and the value of the survey data for fishery assessment purposes. DPI&F to implement changes to the LTMP based on the results of this review and within available resources.
  5. By the end of 2006, DPI&F to develop and implement a robust system to validate catch logbook and Species of Conservation Interest (SOCI) logbook data.
  6. DPI&F to develop, and make publicly available, a strategic research plan within one year. The research plan will identify information gaps in the knowledge required to manage the fishery sustainably, priorities for future research, and consider strategies through which research needs can be met on a continued basis.
  7. 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 principal and permitted species and bycatch, within 3 years, using stock or risk assessments. Appropriate management responses will be developed to reduce risks to the high-risk species or groups.
  8. DPI&F to implement an effort cap in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, which changes periodically in line with the most current estimates of effort creep. DPI&F to implement appropriate management arrangements to account for effort creep across the fishery.
  9. DPI&F to manage effort in the ECOTF at ecologically sustainable levels. DPI&F to identify appropriate management issues and options flowing from the General Effort Review, make the findings publicly available, and implement any necessary management changes before the end of 2005.
  10. DPI&F to investigate the feasibility of implementing finer scale spatial management in the ECOTF.
  11. As part of the Review of the Trawl Plan (to be completed and changes implemented before November 2006), DPI&F to revise current review events and develop appropriate limit and target reference points for principal and permitted species by the end of 2005.
  12. DPI&F to continue to cooperate with other relevant jurisdictions to pursue complementary management and research of shared stocks for all principal and permitted species, which may be affected by cross-jurisdictional issues. In particular, DPI&F will cooperate with AFMA, WA and NT fisheries management agencies in relation to squid and with NSW Fisheries in relation to eastern king prawn.
  13. By the end of 2006, DPI&F to develop and implement a system sufficient to identify changes in the composition and quantity of bycatch in the ECOTF over time.
  14. DPI&F to continue to pursue a reduction in the amount of bycatch taken in the ECOTF through the refinement of bycatch mitigation technology and to support the investigation of methods for increasing the survivability of bycatch species. Any effective and appropriate methods identified should be implemented in the Trawl Plan within 18 months.
  15. DPI&F to develop sustainability risk indicators for bycatch based on the Seabed Biodiversity Mapping Project (FRDC Project number 2003/021). In the interim, DPI&F to, by the end of 2005, implement precautionary performance measures related to bycatch.
  16. DPI&Fto promote research into the impact of the fishery on protected species including syngnathids and seasnakes, and to take all reasonable steps to reduce protected species interactions. Each year, the DPI&F to report publicly on interactions with protected species, incorporating the latest research findings.
  17. Within 12 months, DPI&F to amend the definition of "recognised Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs)" in the Trawl Plan to ensure that TEDs used in the ECOTF allow the effective escape of those turtle species caught in the fishery. DPI&F to undertake sufficient and effective enforcement activities, including at-sea and in-port inspections, to monitor the compliance with the TED provisions of the Trawl Plan.
  18. DPI&F to, within three years, initiate a review and provide a preliminary report on the adequacy of protection provided to species and benthic habitats in the ECOTF by the current system of closures within and outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP), and whether additional closures are required outside the GBRMP.