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Publications archive - Annual reports


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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.

Department of the Environment and Heritage Annual Report 2002-03

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
ISSN 1441 9335

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.

There were 19 nominations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for threatened species, two nominations for threatened ecological communities and two nominations for key threatening processes.

The Minister made decisions on advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee in regard to 28 species nominations, ten ecological community nominations and two key threatening process nominations. This resulted in 16 amendments to the list of threatened species (including one delisting), two amendments to the list of ecological communities, and two additions to the list of key threatening processes.

The one species delisted was a tree: Duncan's sheoak (Allocasuarina duncanii). New information obtained since its listing in 1999 indicated that this species is more widely distributed than first thought and is not threatened. The herb Lepidium peregrinum was transferred from extinct to endangered following its recent rediscovery. Two other plant species, border heath (Epacris limbata) and plains rice-flower (Pimelea spinescens spinescens), were transferred from vulnerable to critically endangered following a review of their conservation status.

The Minister has a decision timeframe requirement of 90 days in considering listing advice from the committee. He met this for 40 of the 44 decisions that were required to be made. Four decisions were delayed pending the outcomes of discussions or inquiries relevant to their potential listings.

Listing of the swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula as a threatened ecological community

The Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide, South Australia, are localised wetlands occurring in high rainfall areas. They are densely vegetated and adjacent to waterlogged soils around low-lying creeks and flats.

The swamps are typified by their reedy or heathy vegetation growing on peat, silt, peat silt, or black clay soil and are home to a number of plants and animals that are listed as endangered under the Act, and that are found nowhere else in Australia. Foremost amongst these is the Mount Lofty Ranges southern emu-wren. Without protecting the swamps, these endangered plants and animals will also become extinct in the wild.

The Commonwealth assisted in purchasing the largest remaining intact swamp of the Fleurieu Peninsula, Glenshera Swamp, for inclusion in the National Reserve System. It is important to also conserve as many of the remaining smaller swamps as possible. Many of these occur on freehold land, and individual landholders are crucial to their survival.

The Mount Lofty Southern Emu-wren Recovery Program, supported by the Natural Heritage Trust, has been working extensively with landholders over the past decade to highlight the importance of the swamps for conserving biodiversity on the Fleurieu Peninsula. To assist landholders wanting to actively conserve swamps on their land, the program has developed guidelines for different management practices currently used by landholders.

The Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula were listed as a critically endangered ecological community due to the small patch sizes of remaining swamps and their vulnerability to ongoing threats.

The purpose of listing the Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula under the Act is to recognise that the long-term survival of this ecological community is under threat, prevent its further decline, and assist community efforts toward the recovery of the ecological community.

Recovery plans

Nine recovery plans were submitted to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee in 2002-03, and one plan considered by the committee in 2001-02 was adopted by the Minister. This was the White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) Recovery Plan.

Significant progress was made in developing recovery plans, with almost 300 new plans now in preparation and 60 adopted plans being revised. Among those plans contracted during 2002-03, four consultancies commenced to prepare seven recovery plans covering ten species occurring on Commonwealth land (two reptile, one bat and three plant species on Christmas Island and two bird and two reptile species on Norfolk Island). Eight consultancies with state and territory agencies commenced for the preparation of 129 new recovery plans and the revision of 27 currently adopted recovery plans that are expiring.

The 2001-02 annual report on the operation of the Act identified further work on the identification and management of marine threatened species as a priority. During 2002-03 one new recovery plan was made by the Minister for a marine species: the White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) Recovery Plan.

Draft recovery plans were produced for six marine turtle species, and blue, southern right, humpback, fin and sei whales. Draft recovery plans were also made for southern elephant and sub-Antarctic fur seals, glyphis species A and C (sharks) and the freshwater sawfish.

Eleven permits to take threatened species or members of an ecological community were issued under section 201 of the Act, including one that was reissued following the expiration of the original permit. Three were for the survey and monitoring of striped legless lizards (Delmar impar) at Melbourne Airport, and one for the pitfall trapping of striped legless lizards also at Melbourne Airport. The others were for the translocation of black-eared miner birds from South Australia to Victoria; slashing of vegetation for fire control and management; vegetation surveys; the translocation of eastern bristlebirds and the salvage of striped legless lizards and southern bell frogs.

The six threat abatement plans already adopted continued to be implemented. Draft threat abatement plans are being developed for feral pigs, Psittacine circoviral (beak and feather) disease affecting endangered psittacines (parrots), and the infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis. On 2 April 2003 the reduction in the biodiversity of Australian native fauna and flora due to the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) was listed as a key threatening process. It will be the subject of a threat abatement plan.

In relation to section 281 of the Act, financial assistance of approximately $4.428 million was provided for developing and implementing recovery plans. This comprised $1.077 million to manage the Threatened Species Network and for Threatened Species Community Grants, $3.222 million to state and territory government bodies and $129 000 to consultants. In addition, $968 490 was provided for developing and implementing threat abatement plans. This comprised $563 800 to state/territory government bodies, $363 236 to Commonwealth agencies, $16 590 to consultants and $24 860 to tertiary institutions.

Financial assistance of $1.046 million was provided through 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. Research projects include the following:

Migratory species

One permit was issued under section 216 of the Act. This was for research on disease in a number of seabird species in the Ashmore Reef area.

Threatened species

One permit was issued under section 201 of the Act. The permit was for a tagging program for whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.

Whales and other cetaceans

Twelve permits were issued under section 239 of the Act after assessment on preliminary documentation (two of these applications were received in 2001-02). The permits approved covered actions such as scientific research and investigations of biopsy samples, incidental interference during seismic activity and export for taxonomic purposes.

All timeframes for notification of persons on the section 266A register for review of permit applications were met.

Listed marine species

Four permits were issued for listed marine species under section 258 of the Act. These were for research and collection involving Australian and New Zealand fur seals and for import of a stuffed penguin.

Wildlife trade

The Act establishes 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 Act provides better conservation outcomes and benefits for industry by:

A list of specimens suitable for live import was established under the Act. Seventy-one applications to amend this list were received. Ten amendments to the list were gazetted and tabled.

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.

In 2002-03, the Department completed the assessments of 11 state managed export and Commonwealth fisheries. All of these fisheries were found to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way, with product from nine of them exempted from the export controls of the Act for a period of five years. Exemption was not considered appropriate for the remaining two, because of longer-term concerns. These fisheries were declared approved Wildlife Trade Operations for a period of three years. Product from these fisheries will be able to be exported under permits while certain conditions are met. In all cases, recommendations will be implemented by the fishery management agency over the period of the export decision, to further enhance the ecological performance of the fisheries. Around 50 other fisheries were under assessment during 2002-03.

The assessments completed to date have highlighted a shift from target species-focused management to a broader ecosystem-based approach. They have also demonstrated 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. As at 30 June 2003, Australia had 14 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, which receive the full protection of the Act.

In December 2002, Australia lodged the nomination of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens in Melbourne for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Notice of submission of the nomination will be published in the Australian Government Gazette as required under section 315 (1)(a). Following a detailed assessment process, a decision on listing will be made by the World Heritage Committee in late 2003.

The nomination of Purnululu National Park in Western Australia for inclusion on the World Heritage List was progressed during 2002-03. Following detailed assessment and reporting by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the International Council on Monuments and Sites, a decision on listing will be made by the World Heritage Committee in late 2003.

Progress has been made, in cooperation with relevant state and territory governments, in developing and implementing management plans for the Shark Bay and Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage areas in accordance with the World Heritage Management Principles set out in the legislation. The management plan for the Commonwealth marine park area around Lord Howe Island came into force in September 2002.

Arrangements for the joint management of Mungo National Park in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area have progressed during the year, and consultations have also progressed on the development of a Three Traditional Tribal Groups Plan of Management. The first meetings of the technical and scientific advisory committee and the community advisory committee for the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia) were held in August 2002.

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. The total Natural Heritage Trust assistance provided for all World Heritage properties located in the states in 2002-03 was $7.1 million. Major projects supported included $2.69 million baseline funding for the ongoing administration of the Wet Tropics Management Authority, and $4.3 million for the 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 assisted in meeting Australia's World Heritage obligations. These funding appropriations are also consistent with section 324 of the Act.

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

Wetlands of international importance

In 2002-03, seven new wetlands were designated under the Ramsar Convention. These include four sites in the Commonwealth external territories: Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve; Coral Sea Reserves (Coringa-Herald and Lihou Reefs and Cays); Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve; and The Dales on Christmas Island. The new Commonwealth designations have increased the number of previously under-represented karst and coral reef wetland types listed in Australia.

One Ramsar site was designated in South Australia: the Banrock Station Wetland Complex. Two sites were designated in New South Wales: Fivebough and Tuckerbil Swamps; and NSW Central Murray State Forests.

In addition, the Kooragang Ramsar site in NSW was extended to include the Shortland Wetland Centre and renamed Hunter Estuary Wetlands.

In 2002-03, the Commonwealth continued to assist in the development and review of management plans for Ramsar sites across Australia. Forty-seven of the 64 listed Australian Ramsar wetlands have management plans or draft plans in place. Twelve sites have management plans in preparation or under review. Eleven draft management plans were assessed in 2002-03 for consistency with the Australian Ramsar Management Principles, established by the Act.

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

Investigation was commenced in 2002 into possible breaches of the Act in relation to land clearing activities in part of the Gwydir Ramsar wetland. This investigation is continuing.

Biosphere reserves

Australia currently has 12 biosphere reserves. Australia submitted a nomination to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Bay Biosphere Reserve to be part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. A request was also submitted to UNESCO to have the South-West Tasmania Biosphere Reserve removed from the World Network at the request of the Tasmanian Government. UNESCO approved both requests and the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Bay Biosphere Reserve was accepted into the World Network and the South-West Tasmania Biosphere Reserve removed from the World Network in November 2002.

During 2002-03 the Department responded to requests for advice and assistance from a range of organisations about potential biosphere proposals for Mildura (Victoria), northern New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, the Adelaide Hills of South Australia and the Lower Great Southern Region of Western Australia.

Assistance was also given to organisations responsible for administration of Australia's biosphere reserves to prepare ten-year periodic reviews of performance against UNESCO's Seville Strategy and Statutory Framework.

Financial assistance was given to the Barkindji (Mildura) Biosphere Reserve consortium through the Natural Heritage Trust to support the development of a nomination to UNESCO for inclusion in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Other measures
Sydney Open Space Review

Preliminary in-house information was provided to the Minister, who wrote to Australian Government land-holding Ministers requesting environmental information and data held by them on relevant blocks of land. This information is being analysed prior to a final report being prepared for the Minister.

A number of Natural Heritage Trust projects 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 the Department to give advice on the likely impacts of actions referred for review under the Act. A total of $580 000 was spent on surveys and other research into cetacean species during 2002-03.

Australian Antarctic Division

During the year, the Marine Species Protection Program committed $161 550 to international surveys of cetaceans in the South Pacific and the Southern Ocean, and $231 713 to international surveys of small cetaceans in the Timor Sea.