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Publications archive - Annual reports

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2001-02

Environment Australia, 2002
ISSN 1441-9335

Reports - Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (continued)
2. Conserving Biodiversity

As provided for in section 516 of the Act, the Director of National Parks will provide a separate annual report on Commonwealth reserve and conservation zone matters.

Information on referrals and approvals under Chapter 4 of the Act relating to threatened species and communities, migratory species, World Heritage properties and wetlands of international importance is in Part 1.1 of this report.

2.1 Protecting species and ecological communities

Threatened species and ecological communities
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee continued to review nominations for the listing of threatened species, ecological communities, and key threatening processes and to provide advice on the making of recovery plans.

In 2001-02 there were 62 nominations for the listing of threatened species, four nominations for threatened ecological communities and one nomination for key threatening processes.

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee finalised its advice to the Minister on 123 species nominations, 18 ecological community nominations and five key threatening process nominations. This resulted in 46 amendments to the list of threatened species (including one delisting), no amendments to the list of ecological communities, and one addition to the list of key threatening processes. The one species that was delisted was an orchid, Caladenia atkinsonii, as the taxon is no longer recognised as a valid species by professional scientists or scientific organisations in Tasmania and mainland Australia. The only key threatening process that was listed was ‘predation, habitat degradation, competition and disease transmission by feral pigs.’

Provision of advice to the Minister from the 9th, 10th and 11th Threatened Species Scientific Committee meetings was delayed for 79 threatened species advices, six ecological communities and four key threatening processes. Extensions for these nominations were sought and agreed to by the Minister. The delay was mainly a consequence of the caretaker period for the Federal election in 2001 and the development of a new public consultation process which allows the public to comment on nominations to be considered by the committee.

The Minister has a decision timeframe requirement of 90 days in considering listing advice from the committee. He met this for 48 of the 49 decisions made. The decision by the Minister on listing the spectacled flying fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) was delayed pending extensive consultation with stakeholders and development of administrative guidelines to facilitate understanding in the community of the implications of listing.

Case study: Listing the grey-headed flying-fox as a threatened species

The approach to listing the grey-headed flying-fox as a threatened species is an example of Environment Australia coordinating the roles of stakeholders and government organisations to best manage a contentious issue.

The grey-headed flying-fox was recommended for listing as a threatened species by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee in 2001. Environment Australia implemented a stakeholder consultation strategy with regard to the listing of this species under the Act. A draft supplement for the grey-headed flying-fox to the Administrative Guidelines on Significance was made available at the time of gazettal in December 2001 to assist stakeholders to understand the implications of the listing.

Stakeholders, including relevant state organisations, industry groups and non-government conservation organisations, were contacted directly and asked to comment on the draft guidelines. The guidelines were also available for public comment on the Environment Australia web site. All comments received will be taken into account when the final version of the guidelines is produced in the near future.

In addition, the Commonwealth worked with three state governments - Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria - to coordinate a national approach to the management of the species. This process demonstrates the ability of the states and the Commonwealth to work together to better protect threatened species, thus reducing duplication between state and Commonwealth processes and providing clear guidelines for affected stakeholders.

Twenty-three recovery plans were submitted to the committee for advice in 2001-02, and 61 were adopted. The adopted plans included those which had been considered by the committee during 2000-01. The Government has made a commitment that a recovery plan would be in force by 2004 for every endangered or critically endangered species listed as at September 2001.

Papers were also prepared for the Threatened Species Scientific Committee considering future directions for recovery planning at the national level and revised recovery plan guidelines for nationally listed threatened species and ecological communities.

The Minister adopted the threat abatement plan ‘Dieback caused by the root-rot fungus (Phytophthora cinnamomi)’. Six threat abatement plans that had been previously adopted are being implemented. A further two plans are being developed, one for feral pigs and another for Psittacine circoviral (beak and feather) disease affecting endangered psittacines (parrots).

A consultancy is under way for the preparation of four recovery plans and updating of two others for species occurring solely on Commonwealth land (four bird species and one mammal on Christmas Island and one bird species on Norfolk Island). Six consultancies with state and territory agencies have commenced for the revision of 33 currently adopted recovery plans that are expiring in 2002. The draft recovery plan for the great white shark and two cetacean recovery plans - for the southern right whale and the blue whale - have undergone the required period of public consultation and advice has been received from the committee. The plans are with state ministers for their comment. A draft recovery plan for six species of marine turtles has also been prepared and considered by the committee.

Seven permits to take threatened species or members of an ecological community were issued under section 201 of the Act. Three were for scientific research (tagging turtles for long-term monitoring programmes). The others were for the transfer of an aquarium shark, sale of shark jaws, a biodiversity assessment of Port Wakefield Proof and Experimental Establishment affecting beaded samphire (Halosarcia flabelliformis), and a fauna survey at Lawson Naval Transmitter Station, affecting the striped legless lizard (Delma impar).

Financial assistance of approximately $4.38 million was provided under section 281 of the Act for assistance in developing and implementing recovery plans. This comprised $611 000 to non-government bodies, $3.362 million to state/territory government bodies, $241 000 to Commonwealth agencies, $37 000 to tertiary institutions and $129 000 to local governments. In addition, $1.814 million was provided for developing and implementing threat abatement plans. This comprised $651 000 to non-government bodies, $587 000 to state/territory government bodies, $376 000 to Commonwealth agencies, $150 000 to local government, $25 000 to private consultants and $25 000 to tertiary institutions.

Financial assistance of $1.7 million was also provided through the Marine Species Protection Programme of the Natural Heritage Trust to undertake research on several listed threatened species. The data obtained through this research (for example, abundance estimates, biological information) has informed the recommendations for research and management priorities made in the recovery plans under development for these species. Some examples of projects include the following:

The 2000-01 report on the operation of the Act identified further work on the identification and management of marine threatened species as a priority. During the year, a Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes was published; funding was provided for the survey of two additional shark species - Glyphis sp. A (freshwater speartooth shark or Bizant River shark) and Glyphis sp. C (Northern River shark) and distribution information on dolphin species was added to Environment Australia’s database of species of national significance.

Migratory species
Environment Australia initiated projects to assist in developing population estimates for listed migratory waterbirds and to improve mapping of important habitat areas for migratory shorebird species in Australia.

Two permits were issued under section 216 of the Act: one was for research in Antarctica on nest sites for Wilson’s storm-petrels, snow petrels and south polar skuas; the other was to collect feather samples from boobys for research purposes on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Whales and other cetaceans
Nine applications were received for cetacean permits under section 239 of the Act. Eight permits were approved after assessment on preliminary documentation (five of these applications were received in 2000-01). One application was withdrawn. The permits approved covered actions such as scientific research and investigations, port dredging and spoil disposal.

All timeframes for notification of persons on the section 266A register for review of permit applications were met. However, whereas all eight decisions on assessment approach were advertised in newspapers as required, only two decisions were placed on Environment Australia’s web site within the statutory timeframe. This was due to a transitional difficulty -a new system has now been instituted.

Listed marine species
Seventeen permits were issued under section 258 of the Act. Eight of these were for research by the Australian Antarctic Division.

Wildlife trade
On 29 June 2001, Parliament amended the Act to modernise and integrate the provisions of the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982. The amendments came into effect on 11 January 2002.

These new wildlife trade provisions retain strict controls on the export of Australia’s native wildlife, the import of live exotic species and the movement of endangered species, trade in which is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The new provisions provide better conservation outcomes and benefits for industry by:

The categories of permits and approvals issued under the Act have been modernised. For example, the new legislation encourages the development and accreditation of Wildlife Trade Management Plans to reduce the need for individual permits. In the period from the amendment coming into force until 30 June 2002, Environment Australia issued 1850 permits and 12 139 one dollar licences for personal accompanied baggage.

A declaration of stricter domestic measures under section 303CB was gazetted on 21 December 2001. This declaration gave effect to the Commonwealth Government’s position that African elephants be protected consistent with Appendix I of CITES rather than Appendix II.

Amendments to the list of species suitable for live import were gazetted on 24 May 2002. The amendments were made under section 303EC (1) (c) to correct inaccuracies.

Export assessments under Part 13A
While management of fisheries remains firmly the responsibility of the state, territory and Commonwealth fisheries management agencies, assessment of the environmental performance of fisheries management arrangements to ensure they meet ecological sustainability criteria is now required under the Act.

Environment Australia has commenced assessment on 29 state managed fisheries. Of these, three (the Tasmanian Rock Lobster, the Tasmanian Abalone and the Queensland Spanner Crab fisheries) have been considered by the Minister with decisions in each that the management arrangements meet the Government’s ecological sustainability performance criteria. Product from these fisheries is to be included on the list of exempt native specimens for a period of five years.

The assessments, particularly for the crab and abalone fisheries, highlighted the value to industry of management arrangements that are capable of adjusting quickly to environmental concerns, including avoiding overfishing of stocks. The process has identified substantial gains for everyone - management arrangements will increasingly be designed with environmental consequences in mind; community confidence in fisheries will increase; and importantly there will be greater certainty for the fishing industry and its long-term future.

2.2 Protecting significant areas

World Heritage properties
The Act has enhanced the protection and management of Australia’s World Heritage properties. Australia currently has 14 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, which automatically receive the full protection of the Act.

In January 2002 Australia lodged the nomination of Purnululu National Park in Western Australia for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Notice of submission of the nomination was published in the Commonwealth Government Gazette as required under section 315 (1)(a). Following a detailed assessment process, a decision by the World Heritage Committee on whether Purnululu should be inscribed on the World Heritage List will be made in late 2003.

Progress has been made in developing and implementing management plans, in cooperation with relevant state and territory governments, in accordance with the World Heritage Management Principles prescribed in the Act. Achievements included the ratification of a management plan for the Commonwealth marine park area around Lord Howe Island and the finalisation of a draft management strategy for the Australian Fossil Mammal Site at Riversleigh, Queensland. Implementation of the World Heritage management aspects of the Act remains a high priority.

Measures to improve Commonwealth-state collaboration on World Heritage have been developed and implemented for most World Heritage properties. During the year, scientific advisory committees were established for the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves, Fraser Island and the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites. Community advisory committees were also established for the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves and the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites. The newly formed Mungo National Park Joint Management Advisory Committee further strengthens arrangements for input from the Traditional Tribal Groups into the management of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage property.

Financial assistance was provided by the Commonwealth for the management of Australia’s declared World Heritage sites located in the states. This assistance is provided to ensure Australia’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention are met and is consistent with section 324 of the Act. Assistance provided to the states in 2001-02 included $8.3 million from the Natural Heritage Trust for all World Heritage properties located in the states. Major projects supported included $3.2 million baseline funding for the ongoing administration of the Wet Tropics Management Authority and $1 million for a World Heritage interpretive centre for Shark Bay. A separate funding appropriation of $5.3 million was made for management of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area.

Separate funding appropriations administered by the Director of National Parks, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Antarctic Division assist in meeting Australia’s World Heritage obligations. These funding appropriations are also consistent with section 324 of the Act.

Work continued through 2001-02 to develop a framework for the funding of Australia’s World Heritage obligations under the revised arrangements for the extension of the Natural Heritage Trust.

Priorities for 2002-03 in implementing the World Heritage provisions of the Act include:

Wetlands of international importance
The Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands in Victoria were designated as a Ramsar wetland in September 2001. The Commonwealth has identified a number of under-represented wetland types in Australia, for example karsts and coral reefs, and is working towards the designation of suitable sites.

The Commonwealth has been involved in developing and reviewing management plans for a range of Ramsar sites, including:

No direct assistance has been provided under section 336 of the Act for the protection and conservation of Ramsar wetlands. However, a number of projects have been funded under the Natural Heritage Trust to advance wetland and waterbird conservation.

Biosphere reserves
Australia currently has 12 biosphere reserves. Australia has submitted a nomination for the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Bay Biosphere Reserve to the Man and the Biosphere Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization with a decision on listing expected in December 2002. During 2001-02 Environment Australia consulted relevant organisations about potential biosphere proposals for the Shoalhaven Shire region and the Pilliga Scrub area.

Other measures
During 2001-02 a process for preparing inventories of threatened species, ecological communities and migratory species on Commonwealth land under section 172, including outside Commonwealth national parks and protected areas, was piloted as part of the Comprehensive Review of Open Space in Western Sydney. The process is being trialled with a view to implementing inventories for all Commonwealth land.

A number of projects administered under the Marine Species Protection Programme surveyed the abundance and extent of cetacean species, particularly humpback, southern right and blue whales. Information from such surveys will be added to species distribution databases used by Environment Australia to give advice on the likely impacts of actions referred for review under the Act.

The Act allows assistance to be provided to governments of foreign countries to help recovery and conservation of species. During the year, Environment Australia sent an officer, with an expert in international law, to three countries (Niue, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea) in the South Pacific to provide technical assistance to legislate whale and marine mammal sanctuaries in their Exclusive Economic Zones. The Marine Species Protection Programme also committed: