Queensland Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Mick Trimmer, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 6 May 2005

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 Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery (RRFF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In September 2004 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the Queensland Rocky Reef Fin Fish 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 RRFF 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. Given the current management arrangements, and a commitment by DPI&F to implement the DEH recommendations and work toward rebuilding depleted stocks, I consider that the fishery will not be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of the taxon to which it relates in the short term. I am also satisfied that it is unlikely to threaten any relevant ecosystem. The management arrangements for the RRFF meet most of the requirements of the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries, 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.

DPI&F acknowledge that the snapper stock targeted in the RRFF is overfished and have agreed to develop a stock recovery strategy. On balance, the fishery is being managed in an ecologically sustainable manner and is working to address existing problems and 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]

Mick Trimmer
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

6 May 2005

Conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Queensland Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Queensland Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery management regime in force under the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994 and the Queensland Fisheries Regulation 1995.
  2. The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries will advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any material change to the Queensland Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery's management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which EPBC decisions are based, within 3 months of that change being made.
  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 Assessment of the Queensland Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery 2005;
    • 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 DPI&F on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery

The Queensland Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery (RRFF) is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. Management measures include limited entry, size limits, spatial restrictions, gear restrictions and vessel restrictions. DPI&F acknowledge that the snapper stock targeted in the RRFF is currently overfished and have agreed to develop a stock recovery strategy.

While the fishery meets most of the requirements of the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries, a number of risks and uncertainties have been identified that must be managed to ensure that their impacts are minimised. 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 DEH of any intended amendments to the management arrangements that may affect sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on by-product, bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem.
  2. By the end of 2006, DPI&F to develop fishery specific objectives linked to interim performance indicators and performance measures for target, by-product, bycatch, protected species and impacts on the ecosystem. Within three months of becoming aware that a performance measure has not been met, the DPI&F to finalise a clear timetable for 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, once developed.
  4. DPI&F to conduct a compliance risk assessment of the RRFF and develop a strategy to implement key outcomes within two years.
  5. DPI&F to continue to pursue collaborative management of shared rocky reef stocks with the AFMA and NSW DPIE.
  6. DPI&F to develop and implement a robust system to validate commercial logbook reporting in the fishery within 18 months.
  7. Within 18 months, DPI&F to develop a process to improve estimates of recreational take, which will be progressively implemented over the next 3 years.
  8. DPI&F to develop a stock assessment program that considers all commercial, recreational, charter and indigenous harvest, provides information on the status of target species and estimates ecologically sustainable harvest levels for target species of the RRFF.
  9. DPI&F to identify areas of localised depletion by the end of 2006, and progressively implement relevant mitigation measures the next 3 years.
  10. DPI&F to develop and implement a recovery strategy by the end of 2006 to actively promote the recovery of overfished RRFF target species to ecologically viable stock levels.
  11. DPI&F to develop and implement a system sufficient to identify changes in the composition and quantity of bycatch, within two years.
  12. Within one year, to support the implementation of the Species of Conservation Interest logbooks, DPI&F to ensure that an education program for fishers, both recreational and commercial, is developed and implemented, to promote the importance of protected species protection and accurate incident reporting.