South Australian Giant Crab Fishery - Ministerial decision 2007

Ministerial Decision
Department of the Environment and Water Resources, 12 March 2007

The Hon Rory McEwen 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 Water Resources in relation to the re-assessment of the South Australian Giant Crab Fishery (SAGCF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The SAGCF was first assessed by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW, formerly the Department of the Environment and Heritage) in March 2004 under Parts 13 and 13A of the EPBC Act in accordance with the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries (the Guidelines). This assessment was based on the submission provided by the Department of Primary Industries and Resources, South Australia (PIRSA) in December 2003. In light of a number of concerns that needed to be addressed to manage environmental risks in the long term, the SAGCF was declared an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the EPBC Act. This declaration allowed the export of product from the fishery for three years.

In January 2007 PIRSA submitted the document entitled Ecological Assessment of the South Australian Giant Crab (Pseudocarcinus gigas) Fishery for an assessment under the EPBC Act to allow continued export approval for this fishery. 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 new assessment report will be available on the DEW website at: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

I consider that the existing Part 13 accreditation for this fishery in relation to protected species provisions under the EPBC Act still applies as there have been no management changes since the last assessment. I note however the intention for this fishery to move to a quota-based management regime under a new Management Plan in 2007. Once the new Management Plan is developed a new Part 13 accreditation will be required to ensure operators are protected from the offence provisions under Part 13 of the EPBC Act.

I am satisfied that the operation of the fishery is consistent with the objects of the wildlife trade provisions in Part 13A of the EPBC 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 Guidelines is adequate, however there are a number of issues that need to be addressed to contain environmental risks in the longer term. The key issues for this fishery will be the impending finalisation and implementation of a Management Plan and addressing the declining catch rate in the Northern Zone. Hence, I propose to declare the fishery an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the EPBC 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.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that PIRSA 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. In addition to the conditions to the WTO declaration, I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on addressing key issues outstanding from the last assessment, to be implemented before the next Australian Government review of the fishery. The recommendations at 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]

Andrew McNee

Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources

12th March 2007

Conditions on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the South Australian Giant Crab Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the management regime for the fishery in force under the Scheme of Management (Miscellaneous Fisheries) Regulations 2000 and the Fisheries (General) Regulations 2000.
  2. PIRSA to inform the Department of the Environment and Water Resources of any material change to the South Australian Giant Crab Fishery management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 decisions are based, within three months of any change being made.
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to the Australian Government Department of Environment and Water Resources annually, and to include:
    1. a description of the status of the fishery, catch and effort information and the total allowable catch setting process and outcomes of that process;
    2. the performance of the fishery against stated goals, objectives, strategies and reference points;
    3. research undertaken or completed relevant to the fishery; and
    4. an outline of progress in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the South Australian Giant Crab Fishery 2007.

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

The SAGCF is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. These measures include: a total allowable commercial catch limit; maximum pot numbers; minimum legal length for both sexes; prohibition on take of berried females; and seasonal and spatial closures.

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. Unless a specific time frame is provided in the recommendation each recommendation must be addressed within the life of the declaration (3 years).

Recommendations

  1. PIRSA to inform the Department of the Environment and Water Resources of any material change to the SAGCF management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 decisions are based, within three months of any change being made.
  2. Within 18 months, PIRSA to finalise and implement the SAGCF Management Plan which should include the commitments made by PIRSA in the 2007 SAGCF submission.
  3. PIRSA to develop and implement measures to enhance the stock assessment and future management arrangements of the SAGCF including:
    1. taking into account giant crab population dynamics;
    2. standardising fishing effort data; and
    3. accounting for removals of giant crab from other sectors and jurisdictions where appropriate.
  4. PIRSA to collaborate, where appropriate, with other jurisdictions to actively pursue consistent and/or complementary research needs and management arrangements for the southern Australian giant crab stock.
  5. PIRSA to monitor the status of the target species in relation to performance indicators. Within 3 months of becoming aware of a performance indicator being triggered, PIRSA to develop a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  6. PIRSA to develop and implement a system for the monitoring and assessment of bycatch to ensure that changes in bycatch can be monitored and verified over time.