Queensland Marine Aquarium Fish Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 27 November 2005

The Hon Chris Cummins MP
Acting 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 Marine Aquarium Fish Fishery (MAFF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). In August 2005 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological assessment of the Queensland Marine Aquarium Fish 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 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 the operation of the fishery 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 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 EPBC 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 (LENS) 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. Please note that the LENS listing excludes any species listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) or under Part 13 of the EPBC Act. Exporters will be required to apply to DEH for a multiple use permit to export any EPBC Act listed species or a CITES export permit to export any CITES listed species including Hippocampus seahorses and Maori wrasse.

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 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 note that the fishery does not currently outline a defined list of species that are permitted to be taken in the fishery. Consequently, there are also no mechanisms in place in the management regime for the fishery to explicitly prohibit the take of any EPBC Act listed threatened species, listed migratory species and cetaceans, or to prohibit the take of listed marine species in Commonwealth waters. Accreditation of the MAFF under Part 13 of the EPBC Act is therefore not possible at this time. I understand that DPI&F is aware that accreditation of the fishery under Part 13 of the EPBC Act is not possible at this time, and has agreed that if operators wish to harvest listed marine species in Commonwealth waters in the future, a wildlife conservation plan will be negotiated between DPI&F and DEH and implemented. This arrangement has been included as a condition on the WTO declaration for this fishery.

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

Yours sincerely

[signed]

ANDREW MCNEE
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

27 November 2005

Conditions

Attachment A

Conditions on the Approved Wildlife Trade Declaration for the Queensland Marine Aquarium Fish Fishery (MAFF)

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the MAFF 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 advise the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any material change to the MAFF's legislated management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) decisions are based, within three months of that change being made.
  3. The declaration covers the MAFF only to the extent that the MAFF relates to specimens that:
    1. are not listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, or
    2. are listed marine species that are not taken in the Commonwealth marine area, or
    3. are listed marine species that are taken in the Commonwealth marine area according to the specifications of a wildlife conservation plan negotiated between DPI&F and DEH.
  4. Reports to be produced and presented to DEH annually, and to include:
    1. information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of DPI&F in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Queensland Marine Aquarium Fish Fishery 2005;
    2. a description of the status of the fishery and catch and effort information;
    3. a statement of the performance of the fishery against objectives, performance indicators and measures once developed; and
    4. research undertaken or completed relevant to the fishery.

Recommendations

Attachment B

Recommendations to the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland Marine Aquarium Fish Fishery (MAFF)

The MAFF is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery including limited entry, gear restrictions and area closures that 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 information on critical elements of target species biology particularly for species listed under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) listed species, potential for localised depletion of some target species, lack of data validation for CITES and EPBC Act listed species and absence of fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and measures to manage and monitor the performance of the fishery.

The fishery also targets species listed under the CITES and has harvested a small number of species listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act. Therefore 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 2008 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations
  1. DPI&F to inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any intended amendments to the management arrangements that may affect the sustainability of the target stock or negatively impact on protected species or the ecosystem.
  2. Within 3 years DPI&F to develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for target stocks, protected species and impacts on the ecosystem. DPI&F will develop precautionary harvest limits for CITES and EPBC Act listed species within 12 months.
  3. DPI&F to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the fishery specific objectives, performance indicators and performance measures specified in the MAFF 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.
  4. Within 18 months DPI&F to conduct a compliance risk assessment for the MAFF, including specific analysis of compliance risks in the harvest of CITES and EPBC Act listed species. If significant risks are identified, DPI&F to develop and implement strategies to address these risks.
  5. DPI&F to implement data validation mechanisms for fishery dependent data collected on the harvest of CITES and EPBC Act listed species for the MAFF within 18 months.
  6. DPI&F to develop a research strategy for CITES and EPBC Act listed species within 3 years. Research strategies will be developed for other key target species identified at high risk through the ecological risk assessment process. DPI&F will cooperate with other Australian jurisdictions with marine aquarium fisheries to undertake research.
  7. Within 2 years, DPI&F to undertake an ecological risk assessment to identify key target species CITES and EPBC Act listed species (other than fin fish managed under the Fisheries (Coral Reef Fin Fish) Management Plan 2003) most at risk from the MAFF and areas at risk from overfishing. DPI&F to develop and implement responses to mitigate identified high risks within 12 months of the completion of the ecological risk assessment.
  8. Within 2 years DPI&F to investigate the potential for localised and serial depletion of key target groups within the fishery as part of the ecological risk assessment process. DPI&F will implement management measures to mitigate any risks identified within 12 months of the completion of the ecological risk assessment.
  9. Within 2 years, DPI&F to develop and implement a process to improve estimates of recreational take and factor these into stock assessments and management controls to ensure overall catch levels are sustainable.