Queensland Spanner Crab Fishery

Ministerial decision
Robyn Bromley, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 29 January 2007

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 (QLD) Spanner Crab Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). An assessment of the QLD Spanner Crab Fishery under the EPBC Act was completed in 2002. As a result of that assessment, the former Minister for the Environment and Heritage, the  Hon David Kemp MP, declared the QLD Spanner Crab Fishery exempt from the export provisions of the EPBC Act and included product from the fishery on the List of Exempt Native Specimens (LENS) until 5 February 2007. He also accredited the Fisheries (Spanner Crab) Management Plan 1999 (the Spanner Crab Management Plan) under the relevant protected species provisions of Part 13 of the EPBC Act.

In December 2006 the QLD Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the 2005 and 2006 Annual Status Reports for the Spanner Crab Fishery for consideration of further export approval of product from the fishery. The DPI&F reports have been assessed for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A and the protected species provisions of Part 13 of the EPBC Act. The assessment also took account of measures that have been developed by DPI&F in response to recommendations made in the initial assessment of the QLD Spanner Crab Fishery to improve the management of the fishery.

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.environment.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/assessment/index.html.

While I consider that the existing Part 13 accreditation still applies to the QLD Spanner Crab Fishery, in the initial assessment only the Spanner Crab Management Plan was accredited under Part 13. I understand that recently three operators were granted General Fisheries Permits (GFPs) which allow them to operate in a manner contrary to the Management Plan (by using larger boats and double the amount of dillies). While I do not consider that this practice is likely to pose a significant threat to protected species given the existing extremely low rate of interaction and DPI&F’s implementation of a protected species education program and reporting mechanism, operations under these permits are not currently exempt from the offence provisions of Part 13. I therefore believe it is appropriate to accredit the management regime for the fishery, including the Spanner Crab Management Plan and the Fisheries Regulation 1995 (under which the GFPs are issued), under Part 13 of the EPBC Act. The new accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management arrangements, including GFPs, are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species in Commonwealth waters.

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 LENS, to include specimens that are, or are derived from, fish taken in the QLD Spanner Crab 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 under 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 QLD Spanner Crab Fishery is a relatively low impact fishery that is appropriately precautionary. The combination of management arrangements, data gathering, and nature of the fishery allows confidence that the fishery managers will maintain low bycatch levels, minimise interactions with protected species and manage impacts on the wider ecosystem.

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. These recommendations (Attachment A) 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]

Robyn Bromley
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

29 January 2007

Attachment A

Recommendations to Queensland Fisheries Service on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland Spanner Crab Fishery

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

  • protection of berried female crabs;
  • a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and Individual Transferable Quota’s (ITQs) in the fishery;
  • a minimum size limit;
  • a seasonal closure; and
  • gear restrictions.

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 2012.

Recommendations

  • 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 byproduct, bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem.
  • DPI&F to ensure that management arrangements for the shared spanner crab stock with NSW take account of the results of the collaborative monitoring project, once available.
  • By the end of 2007 DPI&F to develop a compliance strategy for the Spanner Crab Fishery addressing high risks identified in the compliance risk assessment, particularly those relating to data reliability.
  • By the end of 2008, DPI&F to develop an improved method of estimating abundance of the spanner crab stock that takes into account relevant information on the biological characteristics of spanner crabs, changing fisher behaviour and increased effort in the fishery.
  • DPI&F to undertake an assessment of the impact of operations under GFPs that takes into account the impact of the operations on the target species and broader ecosystem and cumulative impacts of the permits issued, and incorporate this as part of the next review of the Spanner Crab Management Plan.
  • By mid 2008, DPI&F to implement management responses for risks ranked as ‘moderate’ or above in the Spanner Crab Ecological Risk Assessment.