Shark Bay Snapper Fishery - Ministerial decision 2004

Ministerial Decision
Ian Cresswell, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage,7th June 2004

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

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as the Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the Western Australian Shark Bay Snapper Fishery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In May 2002 the Department of Fisheries Western Australian (DFWA) submitted the document Application to Environment Australia on the Shark Bay Snapper Managed Fishery 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 fishery 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 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 Shark Bay Snapper Fishery 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 specimens that are or are derived from fish taken in the WA Shark Bay Snapper Fishery, 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 fishery from the export controls of the EPBC Act, providing the fishery continues not to involve the export of specimens listed on the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

The management arrangements for the fishery meet the Australian Government's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fishery is well 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, proposed research and nature of the fishery allows confidence that the fishery managers will maintain 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 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 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 confirmation that they will be implemented.

I note recent advice that the Pink Snapper stocks are overfished and commend DFWA's prompt response to this issue. Another important factor in making my decision was DFWA's clear commitment to develop a management option, to be selected in consultation with fishers and implemented for the 2004-2005 season, to rebuild the Pink Snapper stock by 2009 to the reference point of 40% of virgin biomass.

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

[signed]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

7th June 2004

Recommendations to the Western Australian Department of Fisheries on the ecologically sustainable management of the WA Shark Bay Snapper Fishery

The WA Shark Bay Snapper Fishery is a well-managed fishery with a range of management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery. These measures include:

  • A clear commitment to develop a management option, to be selected in consultation with fishers and implemented for the 2004-2005 season, to rebuild the stock by 2009 to the reference point of 40% of virgin biomass.
  • A responsive and regularly reviewed TAC for the target species;
  • Significant spatial closures;
  • Operational objectives, indicators, performance measures and management actions;
  • Risk assessment process through the National ESD reporting framework reviewed every five years; and
  • Annual status report on the fishery in the State of the Fishery Reports.

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. DFWA should action these recommendations before the next review in 2009.

  1. DFWA to inform DEH, within 3 months, of changes to the legislated management plan that may affect the sustainability of the target species or negatively impact on by-product, by-catch, protected species or the ecosystem.
  2. 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.
  3. DFWA, in its Annual State of the Fisheries Report, to report on the performance of the fishery against performance measures that relate to the sustainability of the fishery.
  4. If there is a breach in a performance measure, this will be reported in the State of the Fisheries Report. If a breach materially affects the sustainability of the target species or negatively impacts on by-product, by-catch, protected species or the habitat, the breach will be reported to the Minister for Fisheries within 3 months for subsequent management review and action with timeframes for implementation.
  5. The ESD report, including all performance measures, responses and information requirements, to be formally incorporated into the management regime and decision making process.
  6. DFWA to ensure, where appropriate, that any relevant indigenous, conservation, recreational and world heritage interests in the fishery are considered through consultative mechanisms.
  7. DFWA to complete the formal compliance risk assessment and develop the compliance performance measures for the ESD report.
  8. DFWA to establish a program to monitor the length frequency distribution for recreationally (derived mainly from charter boat catch) and commercially caught snapper to consider the impacts of fish mortality on snapper populations and develop appropriate management measures, if needed, to deal with this issue.
  9. The impacts (take and incidental mortality) of recreational and other commercial fishing activities (trawling by both Commonwealth and State vessels and state wetline fishers) to be taken into account by DFWA when setting the TAC.
  10. Within 12 months DFWA to incorporate a precautionary spawning biomass performance measure into the ESD report to ensure the sustainability of the fishery.
  11. DFWA to implement a monitoring program sufficient to identify long-term trends in bycatch to ensure that information used in the risk assessment for the fishery remains based on accurate and current data.
  12. 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.