Victorian Eel Fishery - Ministerial decision May 2009

Ministerial Decision
Mark Flanigan, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 7 May 2009

The Hon Joe Helper MP
Minister for Agriculture
Level 22, 1 Spring St
Melbourne, VIC 3000

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as the Delegate of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts in relation to the reassessment of the Victorian Eel Fishery (VEF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

An initial assessment of the VEF was completed in June 2003, resulting in the then Minister for the Environment and Heritage declaring the VEF exempt from the export controls under Part 13A of the EPBC Act and including product from the fishery on the List of Exempt Native Specimens (LENS) until 1 May 2009.

In January 2009, the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) submitted anApplication to the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts For Re-Assessment of the Victorian Eel Fishery for consideration of further export approval of the product of the VEF. The DPI submission has been assessed for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act. The assessment also took account of measures that have been developed by DPI in response to recommendations made in the initial assessment of the VEF to improve the management of the fishery.

I am pleased to advise that the assessment of the fishery is now complete. The new assessment report will be available on the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts website at: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html

I am satisfied that for the purposes of Part 13A of the EPBC Act, the management arrangements provide the basis for the VEF to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I therefore propose to amend the LENS, to include specimens that are, or are derived from, fish or invertebrates taken in the VEF excluding specimens that are listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, for a period of five years. Such a listing will serve to exempt the fishery from the export controls of the EPBC Act, providing the fishery continues to operate in accordance with the Victorian Fisheries Act 1995 and Fisheries Regulations 2009and does not harvest and export specimens listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The management arrangements for the VEF perform satisfactorily against the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries - 2nd Edition. The VEF is a relatively low impact fishery that is appropriately precautionary. The combination of management arrangements, research and progress in implementing recommendations from the initial VEF assessment allows confidence that the fishery managers will manage the fishery in an ecologically sustainable way.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that DPI is committed to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive action. Officers from DEWHA and DPI have discussed key areas requiring ongoing and increased attention, and have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on addressing key issues, to be implemented before the next assessment of the VEF under the EPBC Act in 2014. These recommendations (Attachment A) have been an important factor in my decision to exempt the VEF and I look forward to receiving your confirmation that they will be implemented.

Please note that export decisions relate to the arrangements in force at the time of the assessment decision. In order to ensure that the decision remains valid, my Department needs to be advised of any intended changes to the management regime and make an assessment that the new arrangements are equivalent or better, in terms of ecological sustainability, than those in place at the time of the original decision. This includes legislated amendments and operational changes that may affect the sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on byproduct, bycatch, protected species or the ecosystem.

I also note that DPI will shortly begin the process of reviewing the fishery’s management plan. I look forward to receiving notification when the new management arrangements are finalised later this year, and my Department will review the new arrangements at that time.

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

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

Nigel Routh
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

24 April 2009

Attachment A

Recommendations to the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Victorian Eel Fishery (VEF)

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Victorian Eel Fishery Management arrangements made under the Victorian Fisheries Act 1995 and Fisheries Regulations 2009.
  2. Department of Primary Industries (DPI) will advise the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) of any intended change to the fishery’s management arrangements that could affect the assessment against the criteria on which Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) decisions are based.
  3. DPI to produce and present reports to DEWHA annually as per Appendix B to the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries - 2nd Edition (the Guidelines).
  4. DPI to collaborate with other jurisdictions and pursue consistent and complementary research needs and management arrangements for target species.
  5. Should there be resumption of harvesting in the glass eel sector, DPI is to develop and implement a precautionary management strategy for this sector, designed to:
    1. monitor the level of harvest and the potential impacts on bycatch species in the sector;
    2. be reviewable and, where practical and reliable stock assessment methods are available, include performance measures linked to defined management triggers and responses; and
    3. enable the ongoing monitoring of the sector, taking into account the impact of environmental conditions.
  6. DPI to:
    1. review its strategies to monitor and minimise the impact of the glass eel sector of the fishery on bycatch and protected species; and
    2. include, as part of its annual reports to DEWHA, an update on its progress in implementing the Protected Species Action Plan for this fishery.