Victorian Scallop Fishery - Ministerial decision 2006

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 2 February 2006

The Hon Bob Cameron MP
Minister for Agriculture
GPO Box 4440
Melbourne VIC 3001

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 Scallop Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In October 2005 the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) submitted the document entitled Statement of Management Arrangements for the Victorian Commercial Scallop (Pecten fumatus) Fishery for assessment under the EPBC Act.

The submission has been assessed for the purposes of the protected species provisions of Part 13and 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: www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/vic/scallop/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 Scallop Fisherymeet 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 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.

I also propose to include product from this WTO fishery on the List of Exempt Native Specimens so that exporters would not require EPBC Act export permits. The fishery would continue to operate as a WTO for the period of the declaration (3 years) and all WTO conditions would continue to apply.

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

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

2 February 2006

Conditions on the Approved Wildlife Trade Declaration for the Victorian Scallop Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the management regimein force under the Victorian Fisheries Regulations 1998 and the Victorian Fisheries Act 1995.
  2. DPI to advise DEH of any material change to the Victorian Scallop Fishery’s management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which 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 DPI in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Victorian Scallop Fishery;
    • 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.

Recommendations to DPI on the ecologically sustainable management of the Victorian Scallop Fishery

The Victorian Scallop 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. Management measures include a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC), Individual Transferable Quotas, limited entry, a minimum size limit and area closures based on trashing/discard rates or meats per kilogram rate, which should enable the fishery to be ecologically sustainable in the short to medium term. Stocks have been overfished in the past, but are not currently overfished and the management arrangements provide the basis to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that will not lead to over-fishing in the future.

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 in 2009 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations

  1. DPI to advise DEH of any material change to the Victorian Scallop Fishery’s management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which EPBC Act decisions are based, within three months of that change being made.
  2. By the end of June 2007, DPI to develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for target, byproduct and protected species and impacts on the ecosystem. DPI 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, DPI to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  3. DPI to complete a compliance risk assessment for the Victorian Scallop Fishery for the end of June 2006 and implement a risk-based compliance strategy by September 2007 taking into account risks associated with non-compliance with:
    • minimum size limits;
    • quota limits; and
    • area and fishery closures.
  4. From 2006, DPI to report publicly on the status of the fishery on an annual basis, including explicit reporting against each performance measure once developed.
  5. DPI to work with the relevant jurisdictions to actively pursue consistent and/or complementary management arrangements for the commercial scallop stock off south-east Australia, where appropriate.
  6. Within two years, DPI to review the current logbook recording requirements and ensure that a robust and reliable mechanism for recording byproduct species and discarded target species is included.
  7. DPI to develop a research strategy for the fishery that identifies research information needs and priorities to meet the management information, stock assessment and performance measurement needs of the fishery. In the interim, DPI to use the results of relevant research in adjacent scallop fisheries to assess the appropriateness of current management arrangements.
  8. DPI to use current and relevant information to perform an assessment of scallop stocks in Victoria for the purpose of determining ecologically sustainable yield limits for scallop and determining the TACC for each fishery season.
  9. DPI to review the harvesting strategy employed in the Victorian Scallop Fishery to ensure that it is adequately precautionary in terms of spatial management. DPI should consider the available scientific information regarding maintaining spatially distributed scallop beds and the impacts of fishing on the southeast Australian scallop stock. DPI to also take into account the cumulative impacts of fishing on the entire scallop stock targeted in southeast Australia as relevant information becomes available.
  10. Within two years, DPI to develop a means of identifying and protecting areas of juvenile scallop beds to ensure that sufficient spawning biomass is retained.
  11. DPI to develop a system for the collection and monitoring of information on bycatch in the Victorian Scallop Fishery sufficient to enable identification of long-term trends in bycatch.
  12. Within 12 months, DPI to develop and implement an education program for fishers to promote the importance of protected species protection and accurate incident reporting.
  13. Should new information determine that the fishery is having significant interactions with any endangered, threatened or protected species, DPI to develop appropriate measures to mitigate those interactions. Measures should be implemented within 12 months of the information becoming available.
  14. DPI to review the current management regime within the Victorian Scallop Fishery to ensure that it takes account of ecosystem impacts, in particular:
    • high risk impacts of fishing identified through ecological risk assessments relevant to the fishery;
    • important juvenile/spawning/refuge grounds identified for byproduct and protected species; and
    • the impacts of fishing on benthic habitats.
    During the review DPI is to liaise with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and the Environment and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and consider information relating to the risk assessment of their respective fisheries.