Tasmanian Freshwater Eel Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate for the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 8 November 2004

The Hon Steven Kons MHA
Minister for Primary Industries and Water
5th Floor, Marine Board Building
1 Franklin Wharf
Hobart TAS 7000

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Tasmanian Freshwater Eel Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In June 2003 the Tasmanian Inland fisheries Service (IFS) submitted the document Assessing the ecological sustainability of the Tasmanian freshwater eel fishery - A report prepared for the Department of Environment and Heritage for the purposes of Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for assessment under the Act.

The submission has been assessed for the purposes of 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 (DEH) website at: http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/assessment/index.html.

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 Tasmanian Freshwater Eel 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 the IFS 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


Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

8 November 2004

Recommendations to the Inland Fisheries Service on the ecologically sustainable management of the Tasmanian Freshwater Eel Fishery

The Tasmanian Freshwater Eel 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:

  • Spatial closures, specifically the protection of a significant proportion (almost 50%) of natural/unmodified waterways
  • Protection of spawning silver eels and glass eels
  • Gear restrictions

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

Recommendation 1. Inland Fisheries Service to advise DEH of any material changes to fishery management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which EPBC decisions are based, within 3 months of that change being made.

Recommendation 2. By the end of 2005, IFS to develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for target, bycatch and protected species and impacts on the ecosystem.

Recommendation 3. IFS 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, IFS to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.

Recommendation 4. From 2005, IFS to report publicly on the status of the fishery on an annual basis, including explicit reporting against each performance measure once developed

Recommendation 5. Should the Australian study on A. reinhardtii determine that eel stocks harvested in the fishery are not panmictic, IFS to investigate the feasibility and need for research to test the panmixia assumption in A. australis. If it is found that the panmixia hypothesis is not true for A. australis, IFS to develop and implement management measures to ensure that catchment fidelity is adequately taken into account and that sustainability objectives for the stock can still be achieved.

Recommendation 6. In the event that commercial quantities of glass eels are able to be harvested from Tasmanian waters, IFS to develop and implement a precautionary management strategy to control the level of glass eel harvest and potential impacts on target and bycatch species and the ecosystem. The strategy is to be reviewable and include objectives linked to performance measures. It should also include mechanisms to enable ongoing monitoring of the fishery and take into account the impact of environmental conditions on the fishery.

Recommendation 7. IFS to introduce a system sufficient to monitor bycatch, including protected species, in the Tasmanian Freshwater Eel Fishery and to identify changes in composition and abundance spatially and temporally.