Onslow and Nickol Bay Prawn Managed Fisheries - Ministerial decision 2004

Ministerial Decision
Ian Creswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 18 November 2004

The Hon Kim Chance MLC
Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and 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 Onslow Prawn Managed Fishery (OPMF) and Nickol Bay Prawn Managed Fishery (NBPMF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In September 2004 the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA) submitted the document entitled Application to Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage on the Onslow and Nickol Bay Prawn Managed Fisheries 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 EPBC Act.

I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fisheries 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/index.html.

I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fisheries 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 fisheries 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 OPMF and NBPMF 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 for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act, the management arrangements provide the basis for the fisheries to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way.

I therefore propose to amend the list of exempt native specimens, to include specimens that are or are derived from fish or invertebrates taken in the OPMF or the NBPMF, excluding specimens that are listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, for a period of five years. Such listing will serve to exempt the fisheries from the export controls of the EPBC Act, providing the fisheries continue not to involve the export of specimens listed on the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

The management arrangements for the fisheries meet the Australian Government's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fisheries are well managed under a comprehensive, adaptable, precautionary and ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fisheries. The combination of management arrangements, data gathering, proposed research and nature of the fisheries allows confidence that the fishery managers will maintain low bycatch levels, minimise interaction with protected species and manage impacts on the wider ecosystem.

Key factors in my decision to exempt the fisheries have been the commitments made by DFWA to introduce an observer program to verify bycatch quantity and composition over the next 5 years, to review the performance measures for the target species by the end of 2005 and to investigate a more rigorous method for determining acceptable catch ranges in the future.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fisheries, I believe that the DFWA is addressing them adequately. Officers from our two departments have discussed key areas requiring ongoing attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on ensuring the continuation of good management practices, to be implemented before the next Australian Government review of the fisheries. These recommendations, attached to the letter, have been an important consideration in my decision to exempt the fisheries 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

18 November 2004

Recommendations to the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DoF) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Onslow and Nickol Bay Prawn Managed Fisheries

The Onslow Prawn Managed Fishery (OPMF) and Nickol Bay Prawn Managed Fishery (NBPMF) are well-managed fisheries with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fisheries. These include limited entry, spatial and seasonal closures and gear and boat restrictions. The Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) welcomes the Department of Fisheries Western Australia's (DFWA) commitments to introduce an observer program to verify bycatch quantity and composition over the next 5 years, to review the performance measures for the target species by the end of 2005 and to investigate a more rigorous method for determining acceptable catch ranges in the future. DFWA has also indicated it will implement a mechanism to validate commercial data within 2 years. In addition both vessel monitoring systems and bycatch reduction devices are mandatory throughout the fleet and fish exclusion devices are being trialed.

The following recommendations have been made to further strengthen the effectiveness of the management arrangements for the fisheries and minimise environmental risks in the medium to longer term. DFWA should action these recommendations before the next review in 2009.

Recommendations:

  1. DFWA to advise DEH of any material change to the OPMF or NBPMF legislated management plans and/or arrangements that could affect the criteria on with EPBC 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 ensure, where appropriate, that any relevant indigenous, conservation and recreational interests in the fisheries are considered through consultative mechanisms.
  4. DFWA, in its Annual State of the Fisheries Report, to report on the performance of the fisheries against performance measures that relate to the sustainability of the fisheries
  5. DFWA to develop and implement a robust system to validate commercial logbook reporting of catch and effort for all target and byproduct species.
  6. DFWA to incorporate into the management regime, an objective to minimise protected/listed species interactions, to minimise or maintain at sustainable levels the take of other non-retained species and to minimise impacts on the marine environment.
  7. DFWA to provide a mechanism, which allows fishers to record interactions with protected/listed species. DFWA to implement an education program to ensure that industry has the capacity to make these reports at an appropriate level of accuracy.
  8. DFWA to review the specifications of the Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) grids used in the OPMF and NBPMF to ensure they are effective at reducing the incidental catch of turtles and other large bycatch species likely to be encountered in the fishery.
  9. DFWA to, in collaboration with licence holders, develop and implement a spatial management system within the OPMF and NBPMF that takes account of the impacts of fishing on:
    • Important nursery areas for target species;
    • Important feeding/spawning/breeding/refuge grounds for key byproduct and protected species; and
    • Benthic habitats present in the fishery area.