Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery

Ministerial Decision
David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 21 July 2003

The Hon Bryan Green MHA
Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment
1st Floor,
Franklin Square Offices
HOBART TAS 7000

Dear Minister

In December 2002 the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment submitted the document Assessing the Ecological Sustainability of the Tasmanian Giant Crab Fishery for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act).

The submission has been assessed in accordance with the protected species provisions of Part 13 and the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the Act.

I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the EA website at: http://www.ea.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

I am satisfied that it is unlikely that fishing operations conducted in accordance with the management arrangements will adversely affect the conservation status of protected species, or affect the survival and recovery of threatened species. 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 Tasmanian Giant 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 the operation of the fishery is consistent with objects of the wildlife trade provisions in part 13A of the Act. I am also satisfied that it is unlikely to be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon, or threaten any relevant ecosystem, to which the fishery relates. Performance against the Commonwealth 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 short to medium 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 under permits for the next three years. I will make the declaration subject to the conditions at Attachment A.

In making my decision I had particular regard to two issues that have the potential to impact heavily on the fishery in the medium term. Firstly, I am aware that the recent stock assessment for the fishery revealed that giant crab stocks in the fishery are considered growth overfished. I commend you for initiating the review and management action in response to the assessment and I strongly urge that DPIWE develop and implement a recovery strategy for the species as a matter of priority. Secondly, I note increasing concern about the impact of Commonwealth managed trawl operations in the fishery area on Giant crab populations and habitats. Clarification of the exact impacts of trawling on the fishery and cooperation between DPIWE and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to resolve the issue are urgently required. I understand that officers from both departments have been discussing the matter and I trust that further work in this area will be pursued. You should note that I am simultaneously raising this matter with Dr Wendy Craik, AFMA Chair.

I note that the fishery has been in a developmental stage and has made considerable progress in developing sound management arrangements. You should be aware that in making my assessment I had particular regard to the draft Rock Lobster and Giant Crab Fisheries Policy Document, which is currently under development. I believe the document significantly improves on the existing policy and I encourage its finalisation and implementation.

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 progressing towards being managed in an ecologically sustainable manner and is working to address existing problems, in particular 'growth overfishing', and to minimise environmental risks.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that DPIWE is committed to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive steps in some areas. Officers from our two departments have discussed some key areas requiring ongoing and increased attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on addressing key issues, to be implemented before the next Commonwealth review of the fishery. The recommendations (Attachment B) have been an important factor in my decision to and I look forward to receiving your agreement to implement them.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment and I look forward to reviewing the remainder of the Tasmanian managed fisheries.

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

David Kemp
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

21 July 2003


Recommendations

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

Before the next review in 2006, DPIWE will:

Recommendation 1. DPIWE to inform EA of any changes to the Management Plan or to the Giant Crab Policy Document that may impact on the sustainability of the Giant Crab fishery.

Recommendation 2. Further research and analysis to be undertaken into giant crab biology, in particular:

  1. Estimation of recruitment to the fishery;
  2. Completion of the analysis of existing growth rate information;
  3. Estimation of fishing mortality;
  4. Ecosystem and habitat research

Recommendation 3. DPIWE to develop and implement an ongoing data collection and monitoring system to enable identification of long term trends in giant crab discards within two years.

Recommendation 4. DPIWE to participate in any cross-jurisdictional activities regarding the target species and any relevant by-product species. All available information regarding removals of giant crab by other jurisdictions and sectors (including Commonwealth trawlers) is to be factored into annual stock assessments.

Recommendation 5. DPIWE to develop and implement, within three years, meaningful performance indicators and trigger points relating to legal size biomass and egg production. If existing research yields sufficient biological data, this work should be undertaken as soon as possible.

Recommendation 6. DPIWE to continue to respond actively and without delay to the activation of trigger points in the policy document by developing and implementing specific management strategies in response to any sustainability issues that may be raised by the activation of trigger points.

Recommendation 7. DPIWE to develop and implement a recovery strategy within one year to actively promote the recovery of giant crab stocks to ecologically viable stock levels. EA notes that the review and development of a rebuilding strategy as required under the Giant Crab Policy Document is underway. DPIWE to advise EA of the outcomes of that review.

Recommendation 8. DPIWE to investigate strategies to assess, on an ongoing basis, changes in bycatch trends in the fishery within two years.

Recommendation 9. To support the implementation of the Protected Species Interaction Monthly Record, DPIWE to develop and implement an education program for fishers to promote the importance of protected species protection and accurate incident reporting within one year.

Recommendation 10. DPIWE, in collaboration with industry, to develop and encourage the adoption of an environmental code of practice that aims to minimise fishing effects on ecosystems, threatened species and threatened ecological communities within three years and develop and implement a means of monitoring fisher adoption of the code of practice.

Recommendation 11. DPIWE to collaborate with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority on collecting data and assessing the impact of harvest and incidental damage to giant crabs and their habitat by trawling activity in Tasmanian giant crab fishing grounds as defined under the Commonwealth's Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS) agreement with Tasmania.

Recommendation 12. DPIWE to initiate research to assess the risk of ghost fishing within one year and develop management strategies to address the risk of ghost fishing by lost giant crab pots within three years should the research indicate significant risk of ghost fishing.