Queensland Fin Fish (Stout Whiting) Trawl Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 16 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 Fin Fish (Stout Whiting) Trawl Fishery (QFTF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In January 2004 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the Queensland Fin Fish (Stout Whiting) 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/qld/stout-whiting/index.html

I welcome the decision of the Queensland Government to introduce Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) into this fishery by April 2005 and to permanently exclude fishing from Wolf Rock, one of the known aggregation areas of the Grey Nurse Shark.

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 QFTF 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 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. Key management arrangements, including limited entry (with only five endorsements licenced to operate over the entire fishery area) and the comprehensive stock assessment that is regularly undertaken for the target species, have been important to my decision. 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 consider the recommendations related to monitoring and risk assessment of bycatch and pursuing a reduction in the amount of bycatch taken in the QFTF as particularly significant.

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

16 November 2004

Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Queensland Fin Fish (Stout Whiting) Trawl Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Queensland Fin Fish (Stout Whiting) Trawl Fishery management regime in force under the Fisheries Act 1994 and the Fisheries Regulation 1995;
  2. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) will inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any intended amendments to the Queensland Fin Fish (Stout Whiting ) Trawl Fishery management regime that may affect the 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 Fin Fish (Stout Whiting) Trawl Fishery 2004 and the commitments made in the Ecological Assessment of the Queensland Fin Fish (Stout Whiting) 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.

Recommendations to the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland Fin Fish (Stout Whiting) Trawl Fishery

The Queensland Fin Fish (Stout Whiting) Trawl Fishery (QFTF) is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery.

The QFTF has an adequate management regime including limited entry, a voluntary Total Allowable Catch (TAC), seasonal closures (one legislated, one voluntary) and numerous gear and boat restrictions that should enable the fishery to continue to be ecologically sustainable in the short to medium term. Stocks are not currently overfished and management arrangements provide the basis to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that will not lead to overfishing.

DEH notes the revised commitment by DPI&F to make turtle excluder devices compulsory in the QFTF before the start of the 2005 fishing season and considers this an important measure to ensure the management arrangements for the QFTF are ecologically sustainable.

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 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. By December 2006, DPI&F to develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for target, byproduct, bycatch, protected species and impacts on the ecosystem.
  3. DPI&F to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the performance measures, once developed. Within 3 months of becoming aware of a performance measure not being met, DPI&F to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  4. DPI&F to formalise and make publicly available all of the management arrangements for the Queensland Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (QFTF), including the process for setting the Total Allowable Catch, the use of vessel monitoring systems, spatial and/or temporal closures and any fishery specific objectives, performance indicators and performance measures developed for the QFTF.
  5. 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.
  6. DPI&F to continue to cooperate with New South Wales to pursue complementary management and research of shared stocks for all target and byproduct species in the QFTF which may be affected by cross-jurisdictional issues.
  7. DPI&F to develop and implement a robust system to validate catch and effort logbook data and the accuracy of the Species of Conservation Interest (SOCI) logbook data, once the SOCI logbook is implemented.
  8. By the end of 2006, DPI&F to develop and implement a system sufficient to identify changes in the composition and quantity of bycatch in the QFTF over time.
  9. DPI&F to conduct a risk assessment of bycatch captured in the QFTF. Appropriate management responses will be developed to reduce risks to species or groups identified as high-risk.
  10. DPI&F to pursue a reduction in the amount of bycatch taken in the QFTF and continue to support the investigation of methods for increasing the survivability of bycatch species. Any effective and appropriate methods identified should be implemented within 18 months of identification.
  11. DPI&F to promote research into the impact of the fishery on protected species and implement measures to reduce protected species interactions.
  12. The spatial management system in the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (ECOTF) is to be reviewed by DPI&F. Should this review identify any ECOTF areas that overlap with the QFTF for closure, DPI&F to consider also closing those areas to the QFTF.