Victorian Sea Urchin Fishery - Ministerial decision 2005

Ministerial Decision
Andrew McNee, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage,
November 2005

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

Dear Minister

As Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, I am writing to you in relation to the assessment of the Victorian Sea Urchin Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In July 2005 the Fisheries Victoria Division of the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria (Fisheries Victoria) submitted the document entitled Statement of Management Arrangements for the Victorian Sea Urchin Fishery for assessment under the Act.

The submission has been assessed for the purposes of 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 website at: www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/vic/sea-urchin/index.html.

I am satisfied that the operation of the fishery is consistent with the 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 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 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 Fisheries Victoria 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

7 November 2005

Attachment A

Conditions on the Approved Wildlife Trade Declaration for the Victorian Sea Urchin Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the management regime for the fishery in force under the Victorian Fisheries Act 1995 and Fisheries Regulations 1998.
  2. The Fisheries Victoria Division of the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria will advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any material change to the Victorian Sea Urchin Fishery's management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 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 the Fisheries Division of the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Victorian Sea Urchin 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.

Attachment B

Recommendations to the Fisheries Victoria Division of the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria (Fisheries Victoria) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Victorian Sea Urchin Fishery

The Victorian Sea Urchin 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.

DEH recognises that the fishery is currently in a developmental phase and that Fisheries Victoria have committed to implementing more formal management arrangements should the fishery progress beyond the developmental phase. DEH welcomes the commitment to developing the fishery in a precautionary and sustainable manner that will take into account the requirements expressed through the recommendations presented below.

The Victorian Sea Urchin Fishery has an adequate management regime including a policy to minimise latent effort, area conditions on permits, gear restrictions, and a requirement for prior notification to fish that should enable the fishery to continue to be ecologically sustainable in the short to medium term. Stocks are not currently overfished and management arrangements provide the basis to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that will not lead to over-fishing.

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. Fisheries Victoria should action these recommendations before the next review in 2008 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations

  1. Fisheries Victoria to advise DEH of any material change to the Victorian Sea Urchin Fishery's management arrangements that could affect the criteria on which EPBC decisions are based, within three months of that change being made.
  2. Within 18 months Fisheries Victoria to develop a fishery specific objective linked to performance indicators and performance measures for impacts on the ecosystem.
  3. Fisheries Victoria to monitor the status of the target species and ecosystem of the fishery in relation to the reference points. Within three months of becoming aware of a reference point being triggered Fisheries Victoria to finalise a clear timetable for the implementation of appropriate management responses.
  4. Fisheries Victoria to develop and implement a robust system to validate commercial logbook reporting of catch and effort in the fishery within 2 years.
  5. Fisheries Victoria to continue to develop and implement research strategies to address key gaps in the knowledge of sea urchin biology and ecology, and of the effects of harvesting sea urchins on the wider ecological community. Should new information lead to the realisation that current take is unsustainable, or is having harmful effects on the target species or on the wider ecological community, Fisheries Victoria should implement strategies to address these issues.
  6. Within 18 months, Fisheries Victoria to develop a process to improve estimates of recreational and Indigenous take and factor these into management arrangements.