Queensland River and Inshore Beam Trawl Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Robyn Bromley, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 17 February 2006

The Hon Tim Mulherin MP
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 River and Inshore (Beam) Trawl Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In March 2004 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the River and Inshore (Beam) Trawl 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/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 Queensland River and Inshore (Beam) Trawl Fishery meet the requirements of Part 13 of the EPBC 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 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 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 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 would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment.

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

Robyn Bromley
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

17 February 2006

Attachment A

Conditions on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the Queensland River and Inshore Beam Trawl Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the management regime in force under the Fisheries (East Coast Trawl) Management Plan 1999, which obtains its authority from the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994.
  2. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) to inform the Australian Government 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 byproduct, 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 River and Inshore (Beam) Trawl Fishery;
    • 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.

Attachment B

Recommendations to the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland River and Inshore (Beam) Trawl Fishery (RIBTF)

The Queensland RIBTF is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. Management measures include limited entry, spatial and temporal closures, effort reduction measures, gear restrictions (specifically the compulsory use of bycatch reduction devices and turtle excluder devices) and size, gender and quantity restrictions for some species, which should enable the fishery to be ecologically sustainable in the short to medium term. Stocks have been overfished in the past, but 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 in the future.

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 2009 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations

  1. DPI&F to inform the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage 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. As part of the review of the Fisheries (East Coast Trawl) Management Plan 1999, DPI&F to, by the end of 2006:
    • Incorporate RIBTF data into the development of review events and performance measures being undertaken for East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery principal and permitted species; and
    • Revise current review events and develop appropriate performance measures, including limit reference points, for those inshore species predominantly harvested by the RIBTF.
  3. DPI&F to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the performance measures (review events and/or reference points) specified in the Fisheries (East Coast Trawl) Management Plan 1999. Within three 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. By the end of 2007, DPI&F to develop a system to ensure that catch and effort data collected in compulsory logbooks is validated on an ongoing basis.
  5. DPI&F to incorporate RIBTF research priorities into the strategic research plan being developed for the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery 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.
  6. DPI&F to include RIBTF catch estimates of juvenile East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery target species, where relevant, in future stock assessments undertaken for these species.
  7. By the end of 2007, DPI&F to implement a system to collect data on the composition (species and life-stage) of bay prawn catches in the RIBTF for use in species specific stock assessments.
  8. In conjunction with work being undertaken on East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery principal and permitted species, DPI&F to develop a robust and regular fishery assessment process for the RIBTF, 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 and permitted species within three years, using stock or risk assessments. Appropriate management responses will be developed to reduce risks to any high-risk species or groups.
  9. By the end of 2007, DPI&F to develop and implement a system sufficient to identify changes in the composition and quantity of bycatch in the RIBTF over time.
  10. DPI&F to continue to pursue a reduction in the amount of bycatch taken in the RIBTF 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 under legislation within eighteen months.
  11. DPI&F to, by the end of 2008, implement precautionary performance measures related to bycatch in the RIBTF. In the interim, DPI&F to develop bycatch related performance measures based on the best available information by the end of 2006.
  12. DPI&F to continue to take all reasonable steps to reduce protected species interactions. Each year, DPI&F to report publicly on interactions with protected species, incorporating the latest research findings.