Western Australian Beche-de-mer Fishery - Ministerial decision 2004

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 16 December 2004

The Hon Kim Chance MLC
Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
11th Floor, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street
West Perth WA 6005

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Western Australian Beche-de-mer Fishery (WABDMF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In October 2004 the Department of Fisheries Western Australia (DFWA) submitted the document entitled Final Application to Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage on the Beche-de-mer Fishery 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 website at:www.deh.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/assessment/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 WABDMF 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 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 DFWA 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]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

16 December 2004

Proposed conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Western Australian Beche-de-mer Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the management regime made under the Western Australian Fish Resources Management Regulations 1995 in force under the Fish Resources Management Act 1994.
  2. The Department of Fisheries Western Australia (DFWA) will advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage of any material change to the Beche-de-mer Fishery's legislated management plan and/or arrangements that could affect the criteria on which 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 DFWA's in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Western Australian Beche-de-mer Fishery 2004;
    • 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 the Department of Fisheries Western Australia on the ecologically sustainable management of the Western Australian Beche-de-mer Fishery

The Western Australian Beche-de-mer Fishery (WABDMF) 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 the Department of Fisheries Western Australia (DFWA) 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 WABDMF has an adequate management regime including limited entry, size limits and performance measures 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. DFWA should action these recommendations before the next review in 2007 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations

  1. DFWA to advise DEH of any material change to the WABDMF's legislated management plan and/or arrangements that could affect the criteria on which EPBC decisions are based, within three months of that change being made.
  2. DFWA to ensure, where appropriate, that any relevant indigenous and conservation groups interests in the fishery are considered through consultative mechanisms throughout the development of the fishery.
  3. The ESD Report, including all performance measures, responses and information requirements to be incorporated into the management regime and decision making process.
  4. DFWA to develop and implement a compliance risk assessment for the WABDMF and implement a compliance strategy to address any identified risks.
  5. DFWA in its Annual State of the Fisheries Report, to report in the performance of the fishery against performance measures that relate to the sustainability of the fishery.
  6. Within 6 months DFWA to implement a revised logbook, inclusive of species specific data, to provide more reliable and comprehensive data for fishery management.
  7. DFWA to cooperate with other jurisdictions in efforts to undertake research on key gaps in the understanding of beche-de-mer biology and ecology.
  8. Within 2 years DFWA to implement data validation mechanisms to ensure that current information collected on the catch and effort patterns within the fishery is available to adequately inform management.
  9. DFWA to obtain estimates of sustainable harvest levels for key target species in the fishery.
  10. Within 18 months DFWA to review performance measures to take into account the best available information on sustainable harvest levels for the beche-de-mer fishery, implement species specific performance measures and revise the management response for the fishery to provide clear timeframes for the implementation of management action if a performance measure is exceeded.
  11. DFWA to develop and implement within 18 months, measures to minimise localised depletion and serial depletion in the fishery.
  12. Within 2 years DFWA to review the current size limits on all target species to ensure that they are set in a precautionary manner consistent with available research on the size at first maturity of beche-de-mer species.
  13. DFWA to provide a mechanism which allows fishers to record interactions with protected/listed species. DFWA to ensure that industry has the capacity to make these reports at an appropriate level of accuracy.