Western Australia Pearl Oyster Fishery - Ministerial decision 2003

Ministerial Decision
David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, September 2003

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

Dear Minister

In October 2002, the Department of Fisheries Western Australia (DFWA) submitted the document Application to Environment Australia for the Pearl Oyster Fishery for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act).

The submission has been assessed in accordance with 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 EA website at: www.ea.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

My assessment considered the harvest of Pinctada maxima (silver lipped pearl oyster) as managed under the WA Pearling Act 1990 and the wild harvest of a number of pearl oyster species used in aquaculture, as managed under the Fish Resources Management Act 1994.

I am satisfied that it is unlikely that fishing operations conducted in accordance with the management arrangements will adversely affect the conservation status of protected species, or affect the survival and recovery of threatened species. 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 WA Pearl Oyster Fishery (P. maxima and aquaculture species) 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 in part 13A of the EPBC Act, the management arrangements provide the basis for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I therefore propose to amend the list of exempt native specimens, to include all specimens taken in the WA Pearl Oyster Fishery, for a period of five years. Such listing will serve to exempt the fishery from other export controls of the Act and exempt exporters from requiring export permits under the Act.

The WA Pearl Oyster Fishery is generally well managed and operates in accordance with the Commonwealth Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. EA advises that the management arrangements for the fishery are sufficiently precautionary and capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery while ensuring that the stocks are fished sustainably. I am satisfied that the WA Pearl Oyster Fishery is unlikely to have an unacceptable or unsustainable impact on the environment in the short to mid term.

In relation to the P. maxima fishery, I am satisfied that the information collection system, risk assessments, management arrangements and overall objectives are sufficient to ensure that the fishery is conducted in a manner that does not lead to over fishing and that stocks are not currently over fished. I believe that fishing operations are managed to minimize their impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem.

In relation to the aquaculture pearl oyster species, I am satisfied that the combination of management arrangements, life history characteristics of harvested species and small scale of wild stock collection, provides confidence that existing harvesting operations pose no significant threat to the sustainability of the species. The limited harvest, combined with the highly selective method of collection ensures that impacts on bycatch and protected species are negligible and there is no significant impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that DFWA is addressing them adequately. Officers from our two departments have discussed some 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 Commonwealth review of the fishery. These recommendations, attached to the letter, have been an important factor in my decision to exempt the fishery and I look forward to receiving your agreement to their implementation.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment and I look forward to reviewing the remainder of the Western Australian managed fisheries.

Yours sincerely



30 September 2003


Recommendations to the Department of Fisheries Western Australia (DFWA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the Western Australian Pearl Oyster Fishery

Before the next review in 2008, DFWA will:

  1. DFWA to include the operational objectives, reference points and performance measures from the DFWA ESD report in the Pearl Oyster Fishery Ministerial Policy Guideline and to review these at least every 5 years. Operational objectives to be developed in relation to minimizing impacts on bycatch and protected species and the broader marine environment.
  2. The DFWA ESD report to be amended to incorporate a clear timeframe for the completion of a performance measure breach review. The breach review report should include a clear timeframe for implementation of management response actions.
  3. Within one year, the DFWA ESD report to be published, and all performance measures, responses and information requirements formally incorporated into a Ministerial Policy Guideline.
  4. DFWA to maintain effective compliance and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that all wild harvested pearl oysters are fully accounted.
  5. DFWA to inform EA of any changes to the Pearling Act, Ministerial Policy Guidelines or managerial commitments in the DFWA ESD report.
  6. A mechanism to be developed to enable the amendment of management arrangements to respond to new information or future Government plans and policies.
  7. DFWA to encourage the Pearl Producers Association while finalizing their Environmental Code of Practice, to consider including actions to address issues relating to the wild harvest of pearl oysters that are highlighted in the ESD Report and EA's assessment report.
  8. DFWA to maintain an effective research and monitoring program in the fishery to validate the catch data, enhance understanding of the stocks status and develop biological performance measures.
  9. Should fishing commence in Zone 4, DFWA to include Zone 4 in the assessment program for the fishery to ensure a reliable biological assessment of stock status is established, including performance measures, and that fishing is managed in an ecologically sustainable manner.