Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 12 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 as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Queensland Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (GOCDFTF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In August 2004 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish 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 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 GOCDFTF 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 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

[signed]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

12th November 2004

Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the management regime in force under the Fisheries Act 1994 and Fisheries Regulation 1995.
  2. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries will inform the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any intended amendments to the Queensland Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery management regime that may affect the sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on bycatch, protected species or ecosystem.;
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to DEH annually, and to include:
    • information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries in implementing the recommendations made in the Ecological Assessment of the Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl 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 Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery

The Queensland Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl 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 including implementation of a Total Allowable Catch for emperors and snappers and development of a Bycatch Action Plan.

DEH welcomes DPI&F's commitment to undergo an Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) for all fisheries in the Gulf of Carpentaria planned for 2004 with a final output during 2005. DPI&F advise that the final outcomes of the ERA will guide future revision of the management controls for the fishery where appropriate.

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 amendment to the management arrangements that may affect the sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on byproduct, bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem.
  2. By the end of 2006 DPI&F to develop fishery specific objectives, performance indicators and precautionary performance measures for target, byproduct, bycatch, protected species and impacts on the ecosystem. Data collection programs appropriate to monitor the performance measures to be implemented.
  3. 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 has not been met, DPI&F to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  4. From 2005, DPI&F to report publicly on the status of the fishery on an annual basis, including explicitly reporting against each performance measure, once developed.
  5. DPI&F to maintain data validation mechanisms for target, byproduct, bycatch and protected species interactions and implement alternative data collection validation techniques if observer trips are no longer feasible or are insufficient to provide robust information on the fishery.
  6. Within 18 months, DPI&F to develop a process to improve estimates of recreational and Indigenous take and factor these into stock assessments and management controls to ensure overall catch levels are sustainable.
  7. DPI&F to continue to seek out alternative cost effective fishery independent monitoring techniques, particularly for target species, and report outcomes in the annual status report from 2005.
  8. DPI&F to continue to cooperate with other relevant jurisdictions to pursue complementary management and research of shared stocks for all target and byproduct species that may be affected by cross-jurisdictional issues.
  9. DPI&F to implement appropriate management measures for species identified through the risk assessment as being high risk within 12 months of completion of the risk assessment.
  10. DPI&F to continue to pursue reduction in the amount of bycatch, including protected species, taken in the GOCDFTF through the refinement of management measures and to investigate methods for further increasing the survivability of bycatch species. Any suitable methods identified to be implemented in a timely manner.
  11. DPI&F to review the appropriateness of the current bycatch performance measure within 1 year.
  12. To support the implementation of the SOCI logbook DPI&F to develop and implement an education program for fishers to promote the importance of protected species protection and accurate incident reporting within one year.