Marine Aquarium Fish Fishery - Ministerial decision 2005

Ministerial Decision
Lara Musgrave, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 11 October 2005

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 Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Western Australian Marine Aquarium Fish Managed Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). In August 2004 the Department of Fisheries Western Australia (DFWA) submitted the document entitled Final Application to the Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage on the Marine Aquarium Fish Managed Fishery for assessment under the EPBC 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 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/wa/marine-aquarium/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 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 (LENS) so that exporters would not require EPBC Act export permits. Please note that the LENS listing excludes any species listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Exporters will be required to apply to DEH for a CITES export permit to export any CITES listed species including Hippocampus seahorses and hard coral.

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.

At this time, I am not 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. I note that the fishery is in a developing stage and there is currently no restrictions on the harvest of species protected or listed under the EPBC Act. Consequently, there are also no mechanisms in place in the management regime for the fishery to explicitly prohibit the take of any EPBC Act listed threatened fish or to prohibit the take of listed marine species in Commonwealth waters. I understand that DFWA is aware that accreditation of the fishery under these components of Part 13 of the EPBC Act is not possible at this time, and has agreed that if operators wish to harvest listed marine species in Commonwealth waters in the future, a wildlife conservation plan will be negotiated between DBIRD and DEH and implemented. This arrangement has been included as a condition on the WTO declaration for this fishery. Accreditation will be granted for cetaceans, as the management arrangements in the fishery do not permit the harvest of cetaceans as listed under the EPBC Act.

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

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

LARA MUSGRAVE
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

11th October 2005

Conditions on the approved wildlife trade declaration for the Western Australian Marine Aquarium Fish Managed Fishery

Relating to the harvesting of fish specimens that are, or are derived from, fish or invertebrates taken in the MAF.

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the Western Australian Marine Aquarium Fish Management Plan 1995 and associated management regime in force under the Western Australian Fish Resources Management Act 1994 and the Western Australian Fish Resources Management Regulations 1995.
  2. The Western Australian Department of Fisheries (DFWA) will advise DEH of any material change to the MAF'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.
  3. The declaration covers the Western Australian Marine Aquarium Fish Managed Fishery only to the extent that the Western Australian Marine Aquarium Fish Managed Fishery relates to specimens that:
    1. are not listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, or
    2. are listed marine species that are not taken in the Commonwealth marine area, or
    3. are listed marine species that are taken in the Commonwealth marine area according to the specifications of a wildlife conservation plan negotiated between DFWA and DEH.
  4. Reports to be produced and presented to DEH annually, and to include:
    • information sufficient to allow assessment of the progress of DFWA in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the Western Australian Marine Aquarium Fish Managed Fishery 2005;
    • 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 DFWA on the ecologically sustainable management of the Western Australian Marine Aquarium Fish Managed Fishery

The Western Australian Marine Aquarium Fish Managed Fishery (MAF) is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery including limited entry, gear restrictions and area restrictions that should enable the fishery to be ecologically sustainable in the short to medium term. Stocks 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.

While management is appropriately precautionary, issues that must be managed to ensure that their impacts are minimised include a lack of information on critical elements of species biology, potential for localised depletion of some species targeted in the fishery, lack of data validation for commercial catch data and current absence of strategies to address identified compliance risks. The fishery also targets seahorses listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) and syngnathids listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act. Therefore special consideration is needed to ensure the ecological sustainability of these species and to ensure that international conventions are being adequately addressed.

The following recommendations aim to address these risks and uncertainties. DFWA should action these recommendations before the next review in 2008 within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

Recommendations

  1. DFWA to advise DEH of any material change to the MAF's legislated 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.
  2. The ESD Report, including all performance measures, responses and information requirements to be incorporated into the management regime and decision making process.
  3. DFWA to consult with DEH prior to a change to the management arrangements for a CITES or EPBC Act listed species being implemented.
  4. Within 18 months DFWA to develop and implement strategies to address identified compliance risks within the fishery.
  5. DFWA to implement data validation mechanisms for CITES and EPBC Act listed species harvested in the fishery within 18 months.
  6. Within 2 years DFWA to develop and implement a research strategy to gather further information on the stock status, biology and ecology of CITES and EPBC Act listed species. DEH notes that the research strategy will need to be implemented within the constraints of available resources.
  7. Within 2 years DFWA to identify species at risk of localised and serial depletion and to implement management measures to mitigate these risks in the fishery.
  8. Within 12 months DFWA to develop a timeline for the implementation of proposed changes to the Management Plan for the MAF, as outlined in the DFWA submission.
  9. 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.