Western Rock Lobster Fishery - Ministerial decision 2002

Ministerial Decision
David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 20 August 2002

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

Dear Minister

In November 2001 the Western Australian Department of Fisheries (WADF) submitted the document Application to Department of the Environment and Heritage on the Western Rock Lobster Fishery Against the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries for Continued Listing on Section 303DB of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC 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 EPBC Act.

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

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 Western Rock Lobster Limited Entry Notice 1993 requires 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 WRL fishery meet the requirements of Part 13 of the Act and I will accredit the Notice accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the Notice are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species.

I am satisfied that for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions in part 13A of the EPBC Act, the Notice provides the basis for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I shall therefore amend the list of exempt native specimens to include all products taken in accordance with the Western Rock Lobster Limited Entry Notice 1993, including western rock lobster (Panulirus Cygnus), octopus (Octopus species), snow crab (Chacean bicolor), spiny (champagne) crab (Hypothalassia acerba) and giant crab (Pseudocarcinus gigas), 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 Western Rock Lobster Limited Entry Notice 1993 meets the Commonwealth's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fishery is managed under a comprehensive, adaptable, precautionary and ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. The combination of management arrangements, data gathering and proposed research provides confidence in the fishery's ability to maintain relatively low bycatch levels, minimise interaction with protected species and manage impacts on the wider ecosystem.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that WADF 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, focussed on ensuring the continuation of good management practices.

I would like to draw your attention to three recommendations in particular. Recommendation 1 seeks the formal incorporation into the management arrangements of the detailed and explicit management triggers, decision rules and performance measures that are included in the submission but which to date have not been included in the formal management regime. The objective in seeking this is to ensure that the strength of the management arrangements is given adequate legislative backing.

Recommendation 4, while recognising that consideration of issues relating to the impact of the fishery on the marine environment is currently undertaken as an implicit part of the development of the advice of the Rock Lobster Industry Advisory Committee, seeks to ensure these issues are an explicit and integral part of the business of that body. The intention behind this is to raise the importance of ecological interactions as a integral component of fisheries management.

Recommendation 11 seeks to ensure, among other things, the continuation of monitoring of interactions with sea lions, and in light of recent interactions with humpback whales, cetaceans. It also requires that WADF to implement appropriate mitigation measures in a timely fashion, should interactions with these species increase. The objective in seeking this is to minimise risks to protected species in the short, medium and long term.

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

Yours sincerely

[Signed]

David Kemp
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

20 August 2002

Recommendations to the Western Australian Department of Fisheries on the ecologically sustainable management of the Western Rock Lobster Fishery

  1. The Western Rock Lobster Fishery submission contains a number of detailed and explicit management triggers, decision rules and performance measures which are not included in the management plan. The Western Australian Department of Fisheries (WADF) and the Rock Lobster Industry Advisory Committee should formally incorporate these into the management regime and decision making process with clear timelines for implementation. These measures must ensure the total effort in the fishery from all sectors is controlled and within sustainable limits. Serious consideration should be given to a cap on total effort including both the recreational and commercial sectors.
  2. WADF should undertake contingency planning to deal with breaches in the existing management triggers. In the event that a review is triggered by a breach of the performance measures and that review establishes that the management regime is under-performing, the management plan should require that action must be taken to return the fishery to a stage where it will satisfy the management objectives.
  3. The compliance and enforcement strategy should continue to be periodically reviewed to ensure emerging compliance risks are identified and addressed. WADF should conduct an annual assessment of the risks to ensure that the current compliance and enforcement regime is as effective for the recreational as for the commercial sector.
  4. Recognising that consideration of issues relating to the impact of the fishery on the marine environment is currently undertaken as an implicit part of the development of the advice of the Rock Lobster Industry Advisory Committee, consideration should be given to including an explicit requirement to consider such impacts in the terms of reference for the Committee.
  5. WADF should continue active encouragement of broad public notification of the potential to input into the environmental impact assessment processes. Furthermore WADF should ensure the external peer review of the existing stock assessment process is maintained.
  6. WADF should continue to monitor the situation with respect to the harvest of immature animals to ensure any reductions in egg production or puerulus settlement are detected in a timely manner, and develop a management response for implementation in the event that a major issue develops.
  7. WADF should continue to implement annual estimation of recreational and indigenous harvest of lobsters which is factored into management, including ongoing improvement of data collection and analysis.
  8. Research into changes in fishing efficiency should be undertaken on a five yearly basis, and contingency plans and management strategies be developed to compensate for potential increases.
  9. Monitoring should be undertaken to evaluate whether the impact of the fishery on octopus is increasing, and if so the impacts that harvest is having on the stock and ecosystem. A management response should be developed by WADF as a contingency.
  10. The retention of deep sea crabs in the western rock lobster fishery should be actively managed by WADF to ensure the sustainability of the developing deep sea crab fishery.
  11. WADF should undertake to develop appropriate triggers for endangered, threatened, protected or bycatch species and appropriate management strategies should the levels or sensitivity of interactions are shown to be greater than currently estimated. To facilitate this process it is important that:
    • WADF continue the recording of byproduct and bycatch taken by the fishery (using both fishery dependent and fishery independent methods). WADF analyse whether byproduct and bycatch recording by the fishery dependent methods are an effective mechanism for obtaining these data;
    • WADF continue the ongoing monitoring of sea lion and cetacean interactions. In the event that these interactions significantly increase, WADF should implement appropriate mitigation measures in a timely fashion.
  12. WADF should assess options for system-based management objectives and associated biological reference, target and limit levels, and implement system-based performance measures in the fishery. This should include a determination of the appropriate levels of protection for larger lobsters. WADF therefore are encouraged to undertake the proposed additional work on the issue of the role of large western rock lobsters in the system, including work on the catchability of larger lobsters.
  13. WADF should examine mechanisms for monitoring ecosystem impacts of the fishery, including the appropriateness of reference areas that would allow comparison of fished and unfished areas.
  14. WADF should establish an environmental management plan for the fishery that deals with effective waste management in the fishery and minimises the impacts of gear loss.