West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery - Ministerial decision 2007

Ministerial Decision
Department of the Environment and Water Resources, 12 March 2007

The Hon Jon Ford MLC
Minister for Fisheries
11th Floor Dumas House
2 Havelock St
WEST PERTH WA 6005

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in relation to the re-assessment of the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery (WCDSCIMF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The WCDSCIMF was first assessed by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW, formerly the Department of the Environment and Heritage) in March 2004 under Parts 13 and 13A of the EPBC Act in accordance with the Australian Government Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries (the Guidelines). This assessment was based on the submission provided by the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA) in July 2003. In light of a number of concerns that needed to be addressed to manage environmental risks in the long term, the WCDSCIMF was declared an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the EPBC Act. This declaration allowed the export of product from the fishery for three years.

In January 2007 DFWA submitted the document entitled Application to the Department of the Environment and Heritage on the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery for assessment under the EPBC Act to allow continued export approval for this fishery. 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 EPBC Act.

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

I consider that the existing Part 13 accreditation for this fishery in relation to protected species provisions under the EPBC Act still applies as there have been no management changes since the last assessment. I note however the intention for this fishery to move to a quota-based management regime under a new Management Plan in 2007. Once the new interim Management Plan is developed a new Part 13 accreditation will be required to ensure operators are protected from the offence provisions under Part 13 of the EPBC Act.

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 Guidelines is adequate, however there are a number of issues that need to be addressed to contain environmental risks in the longer term. In particular, the key challenges for this fishery will be the development and implementation of significant management changes under a new interim Management Plan, and identifying and utilising critical elements of deep sea crab biology, particularly crystal crab, to inform management arrangements. 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.

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. In addition to the conditions to the WTO declaration, I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on addressing key issues outstanding from the last assessment, to be implemented before the next Australian Government review of the fishery. The recommendations at 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 Water Resources

12th March 2007

Attachment A

Conditions on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Fishery (Interim) Management Plan 2003 and management regime for the fishery in force under the Western Australian Fish Resources Management Act 1994 and Fish Resources Management Regulations 1995.
  2. The Department of Fisheries, Western Australia to advise the Department of the Environment and Water Resources of any material change to the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery's legislated interim Management Plan and/or 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 the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Water Resources annually, and to include:
    1. a description of the status of the fishery and catch and effort information;
    2. the performance of the fishery against stated goals, objectives, strategies and reference points;
    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 West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery 2007.

Attachment B

Recommendations to the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery (WCDSCIMF)

The WCDSCIMF is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. These measures include: limited entry; gear restrictions; zonal management; legal and voluntary minimum crab sizes; protection of egg-bearing female crabs; and spatial restrictions.

The following recommendations have been made to further strengthen the effectiveness of the management arrangements for the fishery and minimise environmental risks in the medium to longer term. Unless a specific time frame is provided in the recommendation each recommendation must be addressed within the life of the declaration (3 years).

Recommendations

  1. DFWA to review, and develop where appropriate, performance measures and indicators for the fishery and use these to inform management arrangements. Within three months of becoming aware of a performance indicator being triggered, DFWA to develop a clear timetable for the implementation of an appropriate management response.
  2. DFWA to conduct a compliance risk assessment for the WCDSCIMF by the end of 2007 and develop a compliance strategy within 6 months of completion of the risk assessment to address any high risks identified.
  3. DFWA to use the results of any relevant research or information to inform the management of the fishery and to make changes to management arrangements where required. DFWA to develop a research strategy appropriate to the scale of the fishery which includes identified information gaps and priorities.
  4. DFWA to develop a means of estimating the potential productivity and sustainable yield of target crab stocks. Such analysis should take into account life history traits of the target species, fisher behaviour and removals by other fisheries.