Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery

Ministerial Decision
Robyn Bromley, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 14 July 2006

The Hon David Llewellyn, 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 re-assessment of the Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery (TGCF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

The Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery (TGCF) was first assessed by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) in July 2003 under Parts 13 and 13A of the EPBC Act in accordance with the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. This assessment was based on the submission provided by the then Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment in December 2002. In light of a number of concerns that needed to be addressed to manage environmental risks in the long term, the TGCF 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 April 2006 the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water (DPIW) submitted the document entitled Assessing the Ecological Sustainability of the Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery for re-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 re-assessment of the fishery is now complete. The re-assessment report will be available on the DEH 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 TGCF 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 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 Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries is adequate, however there are a number of issues outstanding from the first assessment of the fishery 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.

On balance, 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. The fishery is being managed in an ecologically sustainable manner and is working to address existing problems and to minimise environmental risks.

The key concern for the fishery at this stage is the uncertainty with the status of the target giant crab stocks and the need to address some potential risks to the long term sustainability of these stocks. In light of these concerns, DEH has developed a specific condition (Condition 4) to be met as part of the WTO accreditation that requires a strategy to be developed in the short term to ensure the ongoing sustainable harvesting of giant crabs.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that DPIW 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, along with the WTO conditions, will be implemented.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment.

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

Robyn Bromley
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

14 July 2006


Attachment A

Conditions on the Approved Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery (TGCF)

  1. Operation of the TGCF will be carried out in accordance with the management regime in force under the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995.
  2. The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water (DPIW) to advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any material change to the TGCF management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which 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 DPIW in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery 2006;
    • 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.
  4. DPIW, by the end of July 2007, to develop a strategy that provides for defining and monitoring robust target levels of sustainable yield and biomass for giant crab stocks in the TGCF. The strategy should include provisions to review and minimise the impacts of discarded giant crabs and review and address any requirements for additional giant crab assessment and monitoring data.

Attachment B

Recommendations to the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water (DPIW) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery (TGCF)

The Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery is relatively well-managed, with a range of management measures in place to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. These measures include: limited entry; a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limit and Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs); minimum and maximum size limits for both sexes; prohibition on take of berried females; closed season for females; and limits on number, dimensions and structure of traps.

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.

DPIW should action these recommendations before the next review in 2009 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations

Recommendations to the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (DPIWE) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery

Recommendation 1: Within 18 months, DPIW to develop and implement a program for reporting byproduct species taken in the fishery and develop measures to periodically validate byproduct species taken in the TGCF. DPIW to also develop and implement preliminary performance measures for key byproduct species within two years.

Recommendation 2: DPIW to implement, within 18 months, measures to monitor changes in the composition and quantity of bycatch species. The effectiveness of these measures should be periodically reviewed to ensure the validity of bycatch estimates.

Recommendation 3: DPIW, in collaboration with industry, to continue to encourage and monitor the adoption of the environmental code of practice, the 'Clean Green Program', in particular those measures that minimise the impacts of trap loss and potential ghost fishing.

Recommendation 4: DPIW to continue to collaborate with AFMA and implement measures to mitigate against impacts of harvest of and incidental damage to giant crabs and their habitat by trawling activity in the TGCF. In particular, DPIW to consult further with AFMA to ensure accurate reporting by Commonwealth trawl operators of giant crab catch from the area of the TGCF for inclusion in the stock assessment and TAC setting processes.