Victorian Giant Crab Fishery - Ministerial decision 2004

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 19 March 2004

The Hon Bob Cameron MP
Minister for Agriculture
Level 17, 8 Nicholson St
East Melbourne VIC 3002

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Victorian Giant Crab Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In June 2003 the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) submitted the document entitled Assessment of the Victorian Giant Crab Fishery against Commonwealth Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries: a submission to Environment Australia for assessment under the 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 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: www.ea.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/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 Victorian 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 to which the fishery operation relates, or threaten any relevant ecosystem,. The fishery is relatively well managed and operates under an adaptable and precautionary ecologically based 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 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 note that the fishery has been in a developmental stage and has made considerable progress in developing sound management arrangements. Of particular note is the establishment of an Individual Transferable Quota system, real time reporting and monitoring of fishing activity, temporal closures and data validation systems. The recently developed management plan is comprehensive and provides for the continued development of the fishery with sound goals, objectives and strategies. I also recognise the recent removal of significant numbers of pot entitlements, commitments in the management plan to implementing a bycatch and discard monitoring program with independent validation and the identification of information needs for the fishery.

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 DPI 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 declare the fishery a WTO and I look forward to receiving your confirmation that they will be implemented.

I am aware of 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 all jurisdictions and industries to resolve the issue are urgently required. I understand that officers from the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority have been discussing the matter and work is underway to assess the impact of trawling activities on giant crabs. I suggest that DPI collaborate where possible in any further work in this area.

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 Victorian managed fisheries.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

19th March 2004

Proposed conditions on the Approved Wildlife Trade Declaration for the Victorian Giant Crab Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Giant Crab Management Plan 2003 and management regime for the fishery in force under the Victorian Fisheries Act 1995 and Fisheries Regulations 1998.
  2. Reports to be produced and presented to the Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage annually, and to include:
    1. A description of the status of the fishery, catch and effort information and the total allowable catch setting process and outcomes of that process;
    2. The performance of the fishery against the goals, objectives, strategies and reference points outlined in the Giant Crab Fishery Management Plan 2003;
    3. Research undertaken or completed relevant to the fishery; and
    4. An outline of progress in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Victorian Giant Crab Fishery 2004.

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

The Victorian Giant Crab Fishery is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery.

The fishery has been in a developmental stage and has made considerable progress in developing sound management arrangements. Of particular note is the establishment of an Individual Transferable Quota system, real time reporting and monitoring of fishing activity, temporal closures and data validation systems. The recently developed management plan is comprehensive and provides for the continued development of the fishery with sound goals, objectives and strategies. In addition, the assessment recognises the recent removal of significant numbers of pot entitlements, commitments in the management plan to implementing a bycatch and discard monitoring program with independent validation and the identification of information needs for the fishery.

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. DPI should action these recommendations before the next review of the fishery in 2007 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendation 1. DPI to inform DEH of any future amendment to the Management Plan, related management documents or managerial commitments made in the submission.

Recommendation 2. DPI to ensure that the Compliance Strategy currently being developed includes clear management actions and the means of measuring the performance of the strategy on a defined and regular basis. DPI to also ensure that the following issues are specifically addressed in the development of the Compliance Strategy for the fishery:

  • Compliance with pot number restrictions and the total allowable catch
  • Compliance with prescribed size limits for giant crab
  • Potential for and management of illegal catch
  • Catch and effort data reliability (target species, bycatch and by-product data)

Recommendation 3. In conducting its assessment of the compliance of the VGC Fishery and its management arrangements with relevant government plans and policies, including threat abatement plans and strategies, recovery plans, bycatch policies and relevant international and regional regimes to which Australia is a party, DPI to ensure that a mechanism to require compliance with any future plans or policies is developed and included in the management regime.

Recommendation 4. Within 2 years, DPI to develop and implement an ongoing monitoring and assessment program to quantify bycatch and giant crab discards to ensure that changes in bycatch quantity and/or composition can be detected and monitored over time and to determine trends in giant crab discards for inclusion in stock assessments. Information is to be collected on an ongoing basis and independently validated.

Recommendation 5. Within 12 months, the Giant Crab Fishery Assessment Group to review the research information needs and priorities to support management in the areas of sustainable use of the giant crab stock and protection of the ecosystem. In particular, analysis of research needs in areas including, but not limited to, recruitment to the fishery, fishing mortality, habitat characterisation and ecosystem impacts should be considered. A research strategy to address identified priority areas will also be developed and will include clear and achievable timeframes for implementation.

Recommendation 6. Develop and implement, in conjunction with other relevant jurisdictions where possible, a robust stock assessment model that incorporates reliable information on stock recruitment relationships and is informed by independent information to facilitate the setting of an annual TAC and determination of the stock status.

Recommendation 7. DPI to seek and participate in a formal and regular dialogue with other Australian jurisdictions responsible for managing giant crab fisheries to ensure that research and management arrangements are complementary. All available information regarding removals of target and by-product species by other jurisdictions and sectors (including Commonwealth trawlers) is to be fully accounted for in stock assessments.

Recommendation 8. DPI to implement within twelve months a mandatory system for the reporting of all interactions with protected species. An education program for fishers on species recognition, interaction minimisation/mitigation measures and the importance of reporting is to be developed in conjunction with the reporting system.

Recommendation 9. DPI to conduct an ecological risk assessment focussed on interactions of the fishery with bycatch and protected species, ecological communities, deepwater habitats and the marine environment to confirm assumptions that the fishery poses minimal risk to these components. The risk assessment should also include assessment of the risk of ghost fishing by lost or discarded giant crab pots in the fishery. Performance measures, targets and responses for the ongoing management of high risk areas will also be developed.

Recommendation 10. DPI to collaborate with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority in any future research or data collection programs to assess the impact of harvest and incidental damage to giant crabs and their habitat by trawling activity in giant crab fishing grounds.