South Australian Blue Crab Fishery - Ministerial decision 2004

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 30 November 2004

The Hon Rory McEwan MP
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
GPO Box 668
Adelaide SA 5001

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the South Australian Blue Crab Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In September 2004 the Department of Primary Industries and Resources, South Australia (PIRSA) submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the South Australian Blue Crab (Portunus pelagicus) 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 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 website at: 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 South Australian Blue Crab Fishery 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 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 list of exempt native specimens, to include specimens that are or are derived from fish taken in the South Australian Blue 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 on 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 fishery is well managed under a comprehensive, adaptable, precautionary and ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. The combination of management arrangements, data gathering, proposed research and nature of the fishery allows confidence that the fishery managers will maintain low bycatch levels, minimise interaction with protected species and manage impacts on the wider ecosystem.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that PIRSA is addressing them adequately. Officers from our two departments have discussed key areas requiring ongoing attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on ensuring the continuation of good management practices, to be implemented before the next Australian Government review of the fishery. These recommendations, attached to the letter, 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]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

30 November 2004

Recommendations to the Department of Primary Industries and Resources, South Australia (PIRSA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the South Australian Blue Crab Fishery

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

  • Comprehensive fisheries dependent catch monitoring and disposal records;
  • protection of berried female crabs;
  • limited entry to the fishery;
  • presence of a TACC and ITQs in the fishery;
  • a minimum legal size limit; and
  • seasonal closures.

An interim management plan is currently in place for the Blue Crab Fishery, and PIRSA intend to implement a formal management plan for the fishery before September 2005. A number of recommendations have been agreed with PIRSA officials to improve management of the fishery and some of these have been linked with this development of a formal management plan.

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. PIRSA should action these recommendations before the next review in 2009.

  1. The Department of Primary Industries and Resources, South Australia to advise DEH of any material change to the Blue Crab Fishery's management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which EPBC decisions are based, within 3 months of that change being made.
  2. PIRSA to ensure that conservation and broader community stakeholders are provided the opportunity to engage regularly with the Blue Crab Fisheries Management Committee.
  3. By the end of 2005, PIRSA to develop fishery specific objectives to guide ecologically sustainable harvest of the target species and byproduct species and to minimise interactions with protected species.
  4. As part of the review of the interim management plan, or no later than December 2005, PIRSA to develop performance indicators and performance measures, linked to the existing objective, for bycatch species.
  5. PIRSA to develop a timetable linked to the existing review process for responding to breaches of performance measures. PIRSA to monitor the status of the fishery in relation to all the performance measures and, when aware of a performance measure not being met, to implement appropriate management responses.
  6. PIRSA to develop a research strategy for the fishery that identifies research information needs and priorities to meet the management information, stock assessment and performance measurement needs of the fishery.
  7. PIRSA to develop a system for the collection and monitoring of information on bycatch species taken by the Marine Scalefish Fishery sector with blue crab quota.
  8. PIRSA to review current gear specifications, particularly for crab pots, assess the effectiveness of gear in minimising bycatch and implement measures to minimise bycatch as necessary.
  9. By December 2005, PIRSA to implement a mechanism which allows fishers to record interactions with protected/listed species. PIRSA to implement an education program to ensure that industry has the capacity to make these reports at an appropriate level of accuracy.