Western Australian Tropical Shark

Ministerial Decision
Andrew McNee, Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, February 2006

The Hon Jon Ford MLC
Minister for Fisheries
14th Floor, May Holman Centre
32 St George's Terrace
PERTH WA 6005

Dear Minister

As Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, I am writing to you in relation to the assessment of the Joint Authority Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery, the West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline [Interim] Managed Fishery (collectively known as the Western Australian Temperate Shark Fisheries), the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery and the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery (collectively known as the Western Australian Tropical Shark Fisheries) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). On 30 November 2005 the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA) submitted the documents entitled Application to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage on the Western Australian Temperate Shark Fisheries and Application to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage on the Western Australian Tropical Shark Fisheries (the submissions) for assessment under the EPBC Act.

The submissions have been assessed for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A and protected species provisions of Part 13 of the EPBC Act.

As you are aware, there are a large number of significant concerns regarding the ecologically sustainable management of the Western Australian shark fisheries. These concerns include, but are not limited to, declining catch rates over the history of the fishery, the overfished status of a number of key target species, lack of timely management responses to breaches in trigger limits, the absence of catch limits for key target species, inadequate information on critical elements of the key target species biology, lack of performance measures, objectives or trigger limits that lead to a timely management response, high risk of interactions with protected species and a lack of commitment to the scheduled implementation of management changes developed by DFWA. Significant public concern has been raised in regard to these issues.

While I am not satisfied that the current management arrangements are sufficient to ensure the ecological sustainability of the fisheries in the long term, I believe that the proposed changes to management as outlined in the submissions, such as effort caps, spatial closures and gear controls, will make a significant contribution to improving the management of the fishery. I consider that, subject to the implementation of the conditions set out in Attachment A, the Western Australian Temperate and Tropical Shark Fisheries are unlikely to be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon to which the fisheries operations relate, or threaten any relevant ecosystem in the short term.

Hence I propose to declare each fishery an approved short term Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) under Part 13A of the EPBC Act. These declarations would allow the export of product from the fisheries for the next 12 months. I will review the WTO decisions in place for the fisheries at the conclusion of this period and consider the need for further conditions and recommendations on possible approvals. Please note that if any condition is not met within the time specified, the Minister is compelled to revoke the WTO declarations.

I also propose to include product from these WTO fisheries on the List of Exempt Native Specimens so that exporters would not require EPBC Act export permits. Each fishery would continue to operate as a WTO for the period of the declaration (12 months) and all WTO conditions would continue to apply.

I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fisheries, subject to the implementation of the conditions set out in Attachment A, 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 fisheries meet the requirements of Part 13 of the EPBC 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 look forward to receiving your confirmation that the conditions and recommendations applying for these fisheries will be implemented along with being advised by DFWA of the implementation of their proposed management changes and of their progress with meeting the relevant conditions for the fisheries' short term WTOs. I trust that you will ensure that industry participants are made aware of the status of export approval and the requirements for the continuation of the export of product from the Western Australian Temperate and Tropical Shark Fisheries.

Yours sincerely

[Signed 24 February 2006]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

24 February 2006

Attachment A

Conditions and Recommendations on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery and the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery (Western Australian Tropical Shark Fisheries)

Conditions:

  1. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA), to advise the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) of any material change to the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery or the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery's (WA Tropical Shark Fisheries) 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. Within 12 months, DFWA to develop fishery specific objectives linked to performance indicators and performance measures for target species, key byproduct, discards and protected species interactions. Within 3 months of becoming aware that a performance measure has not been met, DFWA will develop appropriate management responses for timely implementation.
  3. Within 4 months, DFWA to implement all proposed management changes, as outlined in the Application to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage on the Western Australian Tropical Shark Fisheries. Additionally, DFWA to review the effort caps in place for the fishery and if necessary implement reduced effort limits commensurate with the precautionary principle within 6 months.
  4. Within 12 months, DFWA to conduct a compliance risk assessment for the WA Tropical Shark Fisheries paying particular attention to illegal harvest, non compliance with fin to meat ratios and non compliance with new management arrangements and any other identified risks. DFWA to also develop a compliance strategy for the fishery to address these risks.
  5. Within 10 months, DFWA to develop and implement a strategic research plan addressing key priorities in the fisheries including (but not limited to) key target stock biology and ecology, stock assessments for key target stocks, monitoring of byproduct, bycatch and ecosystem impacts and levels of protected species interactions and measures to reduce interactions.
  6. Within 9 months, DFWA to develop and implement ongoing monitoring of byproduct and bycatch in the fishery, sufficient to identify changes in the composition and quantity of catch. The nature of the monitoring program will be informed by the analysis around observer coverage needs.
  7. Within 8 months DFWA to develop and implement recovery strategies for all overfished target stocks to actively promote the recovery of shark stocks to ecologically viable stock levels.
  8. DFWA, within 3 months, to provide a mechanism, which allows fishers to record interactions with protected and/or listed species. DFWA will implement an education program within 3 months to ensure that industry:
    • has the capacity to make these reports at an appropriate level of accuracy; and
    • is aware of the EPBC Act requirement to report any interaction with a listed and/or protected species to DEH within 7 days of the interaction occurring.
  9. Within 6 months, DFWA to analyse existing information and observer data and develop a predictive model to identify the levels of coverage required to determine, for management purposes, the nature and level of protected species interactions within the fishery. Within 12 months, DFWA will, in consultation with DEH, implement a program consistent with the levels of coverage identified.

Recommendations:

  1. Within 8 months, DFWA to develop and implement a process to improve estimates of recreational, indigenous and illegal harvest and factor these estimates into stock assessment processes and future management arrangements.
  2. Where interactions with protected species are identified as occurring, DFWA will initiate a management response within 3 months to mitigate the risk of further interactions.