Queensland Eel Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 6 November 2004

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

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Queensland Eel Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In February 2003 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document Ecological Assessment - Queensland eel fishery for assessment under the Act.

The submission has been assessed for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC 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 (DEH) website at: http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/assessment/index.html.

I am satisfied that for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions in part 13A of the EPBC Act, the management arrangements provide the basis for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I therefore propose to amend the list of exempt native specimens, to include specimens that are or are derived from fish taken in the Queensland Eel Fishery, excluding specimens that are listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, for a period of five years. Such listing will serve to exempt the fishery from the export controls of the EPBC Act, providing the fishery continues not to involve the export of specimens listed on the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

The management arrangements for the fishery meet the Australian Government's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fishery is well managed under a comprehensive, adaptable, precautionary and ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. The highly precautionary management regime including the closure of all natural waterways and some impounded waters to adult eel trapping, the restriction of juvenile eel collection to less than 10% of Queensland rivers and gear restrictions that are likely to minimise the risk of bycatch, provides confidence that the fishery managers will maintain low bycatch levels, minimise interaction with protected species and manage impacts on the wider ecosystem.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that the DPI&F is addressing them adequately. Officers from our two departments have discussed key areas requiring ongoing attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on ensuring the continuation of good management practices, to be implemented before the next Australian Government review of the fishery. These recommendations, attached to the letter, have been an important factor in my decision to exempt the fishery 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

6 November 2004

Recommendations to the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries DPI&Fon the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland Eel Fishery

The Queensland Eel Fishery is a well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. These measures include:

  • the closure of all natural waterways and some impounded waters to adult eel trapping;
  • the restriction of juvenile eel collection to less than 10% of Queensland rivers;
  • Bycatch reduction devices specifically designed to minimise impacts on air breathing animals; and
  • Gear restrictions by type number and design

The following recommendations have been made to further strengthen the effectiveness of the management arrangements for the fishery and minimise environmental risks in the medium to longer term. DPI&F should action these recommendations before the next review in 2009.

  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. By the end of 2006, DPI&F to revise fishery specific objectives for the adult and juvenile eel fisheries to ensure that they specifically recognise the need to manage impacts on bycatch, protected species and the ecosystem. DPI&F to also develop performance indicators and performance measures for target, bycatch, protected species and impacts on the ecosystem.
  3. DPI&F to monitor the status of the adult and juvenile fisheries 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.
  4. DPI&F to conduct a risk assessment of compliance and enforcement activities in the adult and juvenile eel fisheries. Outcomes of the risk assessment will be used to develop a compliance and enforcement strategy for the fisheries, including a timetable for the implementation of key components of the strategy.
  5. 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.
  6. DPI&F to undertake fishery independent monitoring of representative unimpounded rivers on an annual basis to enable trends in adult eel abundance indicative of any declining recruitment to be identified.
  7. DPI&F to develop and implement sustainability indices for eel stocks within 3 years, to ensure some assessment of the proportion of adult eels that can be sustainably harvested is conducted on an annual basis. The annual assessment of the adult eel resource will incorporate assessment of the impacts of environmental variability, where possible.
  8. In the event that the current genetic study on Long Fin Eels reveals that eel stocks harvested in the fishery are not panmictic, DPI&F will investigate alternative management arrangements with a view to implementing management measures that ensure that catchment fidelity is adequately taken into account. A program for the collection of fishery dependent and independent data to inform management will also be investigated.
  9. DPI&F to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on methods to facilitate juvenile eel recruitment upstream past waterway barriers. If an appropriate mechanism is identified, DPI&Fto implement the mechanism and/or encourage relevant authorities to put in place measures to facilitate ongoing juvenile eel recruitment past waterway barriers.
  10. Within three years, DPI&F to undertake a risk analysis of the bycatch species, including protected species, taken in the fishery to identify those species vulnerable to fishing. Management measures to mitigate threats to any species found to be at high risk from fishing operations should be developed and implemented in a timely manner.
  11. DPI&F to implement the Species of Conservation Interest logbook in the adult and juvenile eel fisheries within 12 months to enable ongoing recording and monitoring of protected species interactions.