Western Australian Tropical Shark

Ministerial Decision
Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, February 2006

The Hon Jon Ford MLC
Minister for Fisheries
11th Floor Dumas House
2 Havelock St
West Perth WA 6005

Dear Minister

I am writing to you regarding the assessment of the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery (JANSF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

As you are aware, the JANSF, and the other three Western Australian Shark Fisheries (the Joint Authority Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery, the West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline [Interim] Managed Fishery and the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery) 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.

I understand that my delegate, Mr Andrew McNee Assistant Secretary of the Marine Environment Branch, has written to you in regard to the current short term WTO approvals of the Joint Authority Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery, the West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline [Interim] Managed Fishery, and the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery, and his decision to extend the approvals for a further 21 months, out to the full 3 year period of the approval. The decision to extend each fishery's WTO approval was made due to the progress undertaken against the conditions, particularly regarding the implementation of formal management arrangements since the initial assessment.

The same level of progress has not been demonstrated for the JANSF. Whilst I acknowledge there are additional management complexities associated with this fishery, as a result of the joint management arrangements with the Commonwealth Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator the Hon Eric Abetz, that have contributed to the lack of progress in implementing the proposed formal management arrangements, I am not satisfied that the current management arrangements are sufficient to ensure the ecological sustainability of the fishery in the longer term.

However I do consider that, subject to the implementation of the conditions set out in Attachment A, the JANSF is 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 extend the JANSF WTO approval under Part 13A of the EPBC Act for a further 14 months. This declaration will allow the export of product from the fishery until 26 April 2008. A key condition of this WTO approval will be to implement adequate formal management arrangements by 30 November 2007. Please note that the WTO declaration extension is subject to the conditions set out in Attachment A and that if any condition is not met, I am 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 fishery.

I would also advise you that in light of the extent of, and public concern with, the proposed changes to the management arrangements for the JANSF (and likely associated changes to the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery) a full assessment of the new management arrangements, when finalised for both fisheries, will be required.

The accreditation under Part 13 of the EPBC Act, granted in February 2006, will continue to apply to the fishery.

I look forward to receiving your confirmation that the conditions and recommendations (found in Attachment B) applying to the JANSF will be implemented along with being advised by DFWA of the implementation of the proposed management changes and of progress in meeting the relevant conditions for the JANSF's short term WTO. 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 JANSF.

I have written to Senator the Hon Eric Abetz in similar terms.

Yours sincerely

[Signed 23 February 2007]

Malcolm Turnbull
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources

Attachment A

Conditions on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery

  1. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA) to advise the Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) of any material change to the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery's management arrangements.
  2. By 30 November 2007, DFWA to implement proposed formal management arrangements that will improve the ecological sustainability of the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery.
  3. DFWA to provide DEW with six monthly reporting on progress with implementing the proposed formal management arrangements and DEW's conditions and recommendations.

Attachment B

Recommendations on the Wildlife Trade Operation Declaration for the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery

  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.