Western Australian Tropical Shark

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

Senator the Hon Eric Abetz
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister

As Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, I am writing to you regarding the assessment of the Joint Authority Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery (JASDGDLF), the West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline [Interim] Managed Fishery (WCDGDLF) (collectively known as the Western Australian Temperate Shark Fisheries) and the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery (WANCSF) (one of the Western Australian Tropical Shark Fisheries) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

As you are aware, the Western Australian Shark Fisheries have all been operating under short term Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO) declarations since February 2006. These short term approvals were granted to allow fishing and export to continue while proposed formal management arrangements, and other agreed conditions and recommendations were implemented. All four WTO approvals expire on 27 February 2007. The four WA Shark Fisheries were also accredited under the protected species provisions of Part 13 of the EPBC Act.

In December 2006, the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA) provided a letter stating progress against the WTO conditions for all four Shark Fisheries as a basis for consideration for extension of the current WTO declaration under Part 13A 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. However, from the information received from DFWA, it appears that progress is being achieved in implementing the proposed management arrangements for three of the four WA Shark Fisheries - the JASDGDLF, WCDGDLF and the WANCSF.

DFWA report that although not all of the proposed management arrangements have been gazetted in the Temperate Shark Fisheries, such as the legislation to support the use of Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and reducing effort levels back to 2001/02 levels, the majority of the new management arrangements have been gazetted and are in place. DFWA report that operators in the Temperate Shark Fisheries have been voluntarily fishing as if all of the legislation was in place. Progress has also been made in the WANCSF to implement the proposed management arrangements such as area closures, effort restrictions and the implementation of daily catch and effort log book reporting.

Hence, I propose to declare the JASDGDLF, WCDGDLF and the WANCSF, approved short term WTOs for a further 24 months (out to the full three year period of the approvals) under Part 13A of the EPBC Act. These declarations will allow the export of product from these three Shark Fisheries for the next two years. The same level of progress has not been demonstrated for the Western Australian Joint Authority Shark Fishery (JANSF). I understand the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources is writing to you regarding this Fishery.

Please note that the WTO declaration extensions for these three Shark Fisheries are subject to the conditions set out in Attachment A and that if any condition is not met, the Minister is compelled to revoke the WTO declaration. The recommendations, found in Attachment B, have also been an important factor in my decision to extend the duration of the WTO for the Fisheries. The accreditation under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, granted in February 2006, will continue to apply to these three Fisheries.

I am aware that since October 2006, you and the Hon Jon Ford MLC, WA Fisheries Minister have been in negotiation regarding further proposed changes to the JANSF's management arrangements, with the WANCSF likely to also be amended to mirror the proposed changes. I would like to advise that in light of the extent of the proposed changes to the management arrangements for the JANSF, and likely associated changes to the WANSF, a full assessment of the new management arrangements, when finalised for both Fisheries, will be required.

I trust that as the co-manager of the JASDGDLF, I can rely on you to work closely with Minister Ford to ensure that the conditions of the current short term WTO approval are met. I would like to reiterate that the export of any commercial fisheries' product is subject to the export provisions of the EPBC Act and as such, a fishery must hold either an exemption from the export provisions, or be declared an approved WTO in order to legally export their product. If any condition is not met, I am compelled by legislation to revoke the WTO declaration, thereby making export of product from that particular fishery illegal.

I have written to Minister Ford in similar terms.

Yours sincerely

[Signed 22 February 2007]

Andrew McNee
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

Attachment A

Conditions on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the Joint Authority Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery (JASDGDLF), the West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline [Interim] Managed Fishery (WCDGDLF) and the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery (WANCSF)

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the JASDGDLF, WCDGDLF and the WANCSF's management regime in force under the Fish Resources Management Act 1994;
  2. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA) to advise the Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) of any material change to the JASDGDLF, WCDGDLF and the WANCSF's legislated management plan and/or arrangements that could affect the criteria on which EPBC decisions are based, within three months of that change being made.
  3. DFWA to provide DEW with six monthly reporting on progress with implementing the management arrangements and DEW's conditions and recommendations.

Attachment B

Recommendations on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the Joint Authority Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery (JASDGDLF), the West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline [Interim] Managed Fishery (WCDGDLF) and the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery (WANCSF)

  1. 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.
  2. DFWA to conduct a compliance risk assessment for the JASDGDLF, WCDGDLF and the WANCSF, and DFWA to develop compliance strategies for the Fisheries to address these risks.
  3. DFWA to develop and implement a strategic research plan addressing key future 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.
  4. DFWA to develop and implement ongoing monitoring of byproduct and bycatch in the Fisheries, 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.
  5. 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.
  6. DFWA to provide a mechanism, which allows fishers to record interactions with protected and/or listed species. DFWA will implement an education program to ensure that industry has the capacity to make these reports at an appropriate level of accuracy.
  7. 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 Fisheries. DFWA will, in consultation with DEW, implement a program consistent with the levels of coverage identified.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.