South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery - Ministerial decision 2005

Ministerial Decision
Andrew McNee, Delegate for the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 29 November 2005

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

Dear Minister

As Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, I am writing to you in relation to the assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In August 2005 the Department of Primary Industries and Resources, South Australia (PIRSA) submitted the document entitled Draft Ecological Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery for assessment under the EPBC 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/sa/marine-scalefish/index.html.

I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fisheries 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 Marine Scalefish Fishery meet the requirements of Part 13 of the EPBC 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 of 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 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 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.

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 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. I understand that they have yet to agree 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 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 Heritage

29 November 2005

Attachment A

Conditions on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Fisheries (Scheme of Management - Marine Scalefish Fisheries) Regulations 1991 and the Fisheries (General) Regulations 2000 in force under the South Australian Fisheries Act 1982.
  2. Department of Primary Industries and Resources, South Australia (PIRSA) to inform the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any material change to the Marine Scalefish Fishery's management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) decisions are based, within three months of that change being made.
  3. Reports to be produced and presented to DEH annually, and to include:
    • information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of PIRSA in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish 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.

Attachment B

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

The MSF is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. Management measures include size limits for key species, temporal and spatial closures, limited entry licensing with amalgamation on transfer and an upper effort limit of 41,000 boat days for the fishery. Over-fishing of some stocks has been identified, however recovery strategies have been implemented for those stocks. Remaining species are not currently over-fished and the 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. PIRSA should action these recommendations before the next review in 2008 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations

  1. PIRSA to advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any material change to the MSF's management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) decisions are based, within 3 months of that change being made.
  2. Within 18 months, PIRSA to develop a process to improve estimates of recreational and Indigenous removals of MSF species and factor these into the stock assessments and management controls to ensure overall catch levels are sustainable.
  3. Within 12 months, PIRSA to develop and implement a robust and comprehensive system to validate catch and effort data.
  4. PIRSA, within 2 years, to develop and refine sustainable yield estimates for target species for each sector of the MSF, particularly King George whiting, snapper, garfish, southern calamary, Australian salmon, ocean jackets, sand crabs and cockles. Estimates should be used to develop sustainable harvest levels and to determine biological trigger points for these species.
  5. Within 2 years, PIRSA to develop and activate methods of managing effort across all sectors of the MSF at ecologically sustainable levels.
  6. PIRSA to conduct an assessment of species at risk of localised depletion within 18 months. For species identified at risk, PIRSA to develop a monitoring system sufficient to identify localised depletion processes over small scales and implement appropriate management measures within 2 ½ years.
  7. PIRSA to conduct a risk analysis for byproduct species vulnerable to over exploitation for each sector of the fishery within 18 months and develop sustainable yield estimates and more refined management responses appropriate to byproduct species biology, particularly sharks, tommy ruff and snook within 2 ½ years.
  8. PIRSA to develop and implement, within 2 years, a system for the quantitative monitoring of bycatch in the MSF, sufficient to identify changes in composition and quantity of bycatch in each sector of the fishery.
  9. Within 18 months, PIRSA to develop a mechanism that provides for timely and accurate reporting of interactions with protected species. PIRSA to implement an associated education program to ensure industry has the capacity to make accurate reports.
  10. PIRSA to implement appropriate mitigation measures should new information indicate the fishery is having significant interactions with threatened and protected species or impacts on wider ecological communities, within 3 months of the information becoming available.