Western Australian Tropical Shark

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

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

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 (WA) 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 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 the proposed formal management arrangements, and other agreed conditions and recommendations were implemented. At the time of assessment, the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia (DFWA) stated that "due to the legislative complexity associated with the Joint Authority management arrangement, this is likely to take several months to implement" within the JANSF. All four WTO approvals expire on 27 February 2007.

I also understand that at the time, my predecessor, Senator the Hon Ian Campbell, wrote to you outlining his significant concern with all four WA Shark Fisheries. In particular, he indicated that the proposed management arrangements were seen as essential for moving towards the ecological sustainable management of the Shark Fisheries, and noting his concern with the previous history of delays in implementing the suite of proposed management arrangements across all four WA Shark Fisheries. However, the short term WTO approvals were granted on the basis that the Hon Jon Ford JP MLC, WA Fisheries Minister and the DFWA were committed to meeting all of the agreed conditions, particularly regarding the implementation of the proposed management arrangements.

In December 2006, the DFWA provided a letter stating progress against the WTO conditions for the JANSF (and remaining three WA Shark Fisheries) as a basis for considering an extension of the current WTO declarations under Part 13A of the EPBC Act.

From this information it became apparent that whilst progress has now been achieved in implementing the proposed management arrangements for the other three Shark Fisheries, the JANSF has not demonstrated the same level of progress and has not implemented any of the proposed formal management arrangements which were expected to be in place by mid 2006. The JANSF is currently only being managed under agreed arrangements, similar to those required under the Western Australian North Coast Shark Fishery.

Whilst I acknowledge there are additional legislative and management complexities associated with the JANSF, 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.

I am aware that since October 2006, you and Minister Ford have been in negotiation regarding further proposed changes to the JANSF management arrangements. While I am not satisfied that the current management arrangements are sufficient, I believe that the proposed changes to the management of the Fishery, such as effort caps, spatial closures and gear controls, will make a significant contribution to improving the management of the Fishery. In considering the reasons behind the delays in implementing the new management arrangements and the current low level of fishing in the JANSF while the management arrangements are being completed, I have decided to extend the WTO for the JANSF for 14 months, until 26 April 2008. I consider with the 14 months given to finalise and fully implement the new management arrangements, the management of the JANSF will meet the requirements of the EPBC Act.

The WTO declaration extension is subject to the conditions set out in Attachment A and recommendations, found in Attachment B.

I trust that as the co-manager of the JANSF 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 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.

I have written to Minister Ford 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 Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery, and DFWA to develop a compliance strategy for the fishery 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 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.
  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 fishery. DFWA will, in consultation with DEH, 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.