Queensland East Coast Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 13 November 2004

The Hon Henry Palaszczuk MP
Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries
Primary Industries Building
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 East Coast Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery (ECTRLF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In June 2004 the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) submitted the document entitled An Ecological Assessment of Queensland's East Coast Tropical Rock Lobster 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/assessment/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 ECTRLF 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. 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 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 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]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

13 November 2004

Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Queensland East Coast Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery

Conditions on a declared WTO

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Queensland East Coast Rock Lobster Fishery management regime made under the Queensland Fisheries Regulation 1995 in force under the Fisheries Act 1994;
  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 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 East Coast Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery 2004;
    • 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 East Coast Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery

The Queensland East Coast Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery (ECTRLF) is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery.

The ECTRLF has an adequate management regime including limited entry, seasonal and area closures, gear and vessel restrictions, prohibition on the take of berried or mated females and relatively benign fishing methods 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 over-fishing.

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. DPI&F to continue to ensure that consultative processes are conducted in a manner that enables all stakeholders adequate opportunity for input into the management arrangements essential for the sustainability of the fishery.
  3. By the end of 2006, DPI&F to develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for target species and for fishery impacts on the ecosystem.
  4. DPI&F to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to the performance measures once developed. 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.
  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 implement more comprehensive data collection and validation mechanisms to ensure that adequate and reliable data on catch, effort, stock structure and abundance, appropriate to the scale of the fishery, are collected from all sectors of the fishery to ensure sustainable management of the ECTRL resource.
  7. DPI&F, in conjunction with AFMA and other jurisdictions, to continue to work towards developing sustainable yield estimates of the target species to determine sustainable harvest levels that take account of straddling target species stocks in the North East Queensland, Coral Sea and Torres Strait and Papua New Guinea regions. DPI&F to develop and implement biologically-based reference point(s) for the target stocks.
  8. DPI&F to continue to pursue complementary management arrangements with other jurisdictions responsible for managing shared rock lobster stocks to ensure that all removals and other relevant impacts on the stock are properly accounted for in stock assessments and harvest control measures.
  9. DPI&F, within eighteen months, to control fishing mortality in sectors under its direct control, through effort controls or other mechanisms, to maintain stocks at ecologically sustainable levels. DPI&F to implement interim measures within six months to prevent significant increases in catch and/or effort while the above controls are being formalised.
  10. DPI&F to conduct a formal compliance risk assessment of the ECTRLF within one year and implement any resultant recommendations. DPI&F to periodically review the compliance risk assessment.