5 April 2007
Australia will lead international efforts at the International Convention on Migratory Species later this year to protect three of the world's biggest shark species from incidental capture.
'I am proud to announce the Government will be focusing its by-catch prevention efforts this year on the threats to three globally threatened shark species - the great white shark, the basking shark and the whale shark - all of which have been caught by nets and long lines targeting other species,' Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull said during Seaweek in March.
'The Government is providing around $2 million this financial year to help minimise by-catch and broader protection of marine species both domestically and internationally.'
Mr Turnbull said Australia would move to implement protection measures at the migratory species meeting in the Seychelles in December this year. All three species are listed as migratory under Australia's environment legislation - the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act), meaning that for protective measures to be most effective, they need to be implemented internationally. Both great whites and whale sharks are also listed under the EPBC Act as vulnerable.
'The Australian Government is proud of its global leadership in reducing by-catch of Australia's unique marine life through a number of legal and non-legal arrangements,' Mr Turnbull said.
'The release of the National Seal Strategy and development and implementation of the Threat Abatement Plan for the Incidental Capture of Seabirds in Longlines are two examples of this leadership.'
Whale shark. Image courtesy of Glen Cowans.
Other initiatives to reduce by-catch include:
- the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels;
- the identification of by-catch reduction as a specific action to be addressed to reduce turtle mortality in the 2003 Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia;
- a National Policy on Fisheries By-catch to help species such as turtle and dugong;
- the development of by-catch action plans by all major fisheries managed by the Australian Government and compulsory Turtle Excluder Devices in most trawl fisheries; and
- Australia's lead role in development and implementation of the Indian Ocean and South East Asian Memorandum of Understanding for Sea Turtles.
Representatives of regional business and industry, research organisations, Indigenous and community groups will come together to advise the Australian Government on its $40 million marine and tropical science research programme.
The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull MP, last month announced the membership of the Advisory Council for the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) programme.
The MTSRF will take a multi-disciplinary approach to environmental research aimed at protecting North Queensland's unique reefs and rainforests, such as the Great Barrier Reef and its catchments, tropical rainforests, including the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and the Torres Strait.
The Advisory Council will advise on the development of future MTSRF annual research plans, funding for emerging issues and priorities and the overall performance of the programme. It met for the first time in March in Cairns.
'This Council has the right blend of expertise and experience needed to provide me with quality advice about environmental research priorities for North Queensland and how to best address them,' Mr Turnbull said.
'The Chair of the Advisory Council, Mr John McIntyre, is well known within the North Queensland tourism industry with extensive understanding of the business community. Mr McInytre is Project Director of the Great Tropical Drive, for Tropical Tourism North Queensland, and a Board Member of the Australian Rainforest Foundation,' Mr Turnbull said.
'I have asked the Council to consult widely with North Queensland communities, including Indigenous and Torres Strait communities, industry and businesses and the scientific community when developing its advice.
'I would also like to thank members of the MTSRF Interim Board for their hard work and dedication in helping to establish this programme. They laid a solid foundation for continued world-class research in North Queensland.'
The MTSRF Ministerial Advisory Council members are:
Mr John McIntyre
Associate Professor Bob Beeton
Mr Russell Beer
Professor Scott Bowman
Ms Suzie Christensen
Mr Tim Nevard
Mr Greg Peel
Cr George Pitt
Mr Geoff Plante
Mr Alan Wallish
Mr Stewart Wood
Further information about the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility and the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) programme is available online at www.environment.gov.au/programs/cerf
Minke whale. Image courtesy of Matt Curnock.
The Australian Government has expressed objections to the resumption of commercial whaling by Iceland.
Iceland has unilaterally granted itself a quota to kill nine endangered fin whales and 30 minke whales for the 2007 season.
'Australia is implacably opposed to commercial whaling and we believe Iceland's actions are in breach of the moratorium upheld by the international community for 20 years,' Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull said last month.
In October 2006 Iceland announced it would resume commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium without any assessment by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) or its Scientific Committee.
'What is particularly deplorable is that Iceland is targeting fin whales,' Mr Turnbull said.
'Fin whales are listed under the IUCN (International Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Species as endangered, which means they face a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.'
'Iceland withdrew from the IWC in 1992 in protest and later rejoined in 2002 with a 'reservation' to the moratorium.
They now believe because of this 'reservation' they are not bound by the global ban on commercial whaling.'
When Iceland rejoined the IWC, Australia and 17 other pro-conservation countries formally registered an objection to Iceland's reservation. Australia considers Iceland's reservation incompatible with the purpose of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling.
'I find it very perplexing that like Australia, Iceland has a burgeoning whale watching industry which provides far greater commercial benefits than killing whales and allows our people and tourists to learn about the great whales,' Mr Turnbull said.
'Iceland has a modern, prosperous economy with no need to hunt endangered whales. Whaling is clearly an archaic practice and has to stop.'
Chief Petty Officer Raymond Macey, from HMAS Gascoyne releases a shovelnose ray trapped from a gillnet.
On 6 March 2007 while conducting Operation Resolute border patrols, Royal Australian Navy Mine Hunter HMAS Gascoyne lived up to her motto 'Return to the Sea' when the crew released a number of marine creatures back into the ocean after discovering them entangled in a three kilometre-long gillnet.
Coordinated by Border Protection Command, HMAS Gascoyne and Australian Customs Vessel Storm Bay responded to a Coastwatch sighting in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
After locating and apprehending an illegal fishing vessel, a further inspection of the area was conducted and a gillnet was found stretching three kilometres along the ocean floor.
'We managed to haul the massive net onboard Gascoyne and were able to release marine life, which had been trapped and were struggling to break free,' said Lieutenant Commander Max Muller, Commanding Officer of HMAS Gascoyne.
'At the end of the day the final tally of marine life rescued was 22 shovelnose rays, three stingrays and an adult loggerhead turtle. Unfortunately the crew could not save all the creatures found entangled in the net and a further nine shovelnose rays were found deceased' added LCDR Muller.
Earlier on 5 March, Gascoyne rescued a loggerhead turtle that was tangled in empty plastic bottles and string. The turtle was released by the crew and immediately swam away.
The Australian Customs Service boarding a foreign fishing vessel south of Tasmania. The Captain and Fishing Master of the Taruman were convicted of illegal fishing. Image courtesy of the Australian Customs Service.
Australia and the Republic of South Africa have signed a Letter of Intent on future cooperative surveillance and enforcement in fisheries in their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in the Southern Ocean.
Australian Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz, and South African Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk, signed the Letter of Intent last month in Canberra.
'Signing this Letter of Intent shows our commitment to a productive working relationship with South Africa to combat illegal fishing in the waters around our respective territories in the Southern Ocean,' Senator Abetz said.
'It's also further evidence of Australia's ongoing commitment to close the international net around Southern Ocean toothfish poachers.
'We are also working with South Africa to develop a treaty formalising the structures and the legal basis that will allow cooperative surveillance, and which will permit enforcement of Australian and South African fisheries laws in our respective Southern Ocean EEZs.
'Surveillance and enforcement under the future treaty will need to be opportunistic because of the substantial distance between Australia's Heard Island and McDonald Island EEZs, and South Africa's Prince Edward Island EEZ in the Southern Ocean. Cooperative agreements such as this one send an important message of international unity against the scourge of illegal fishing.'
Senator Abetz said that the treaty would enhance compliance capacity in the Southern Ocean and complement the bilateral Australia-France cooperative fisheries surveillance and enforcement treaty in the Southern Ocean.
Senator Abetz noted that as a result of the Howard Government's strong surveillance and enforcement policies and cooperation with other nations, no fish poachers had been detected in Australia's Heard and McDonald Island fishing zones for more than three years.
Blowfish. Image courtesy of Glen Cowans.
The consultation period for the Australian Government's Draft Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy is now open.
The Harvest Strategy Policy will provide a framework that ensures a strategic, science-based approach to setting total allowable catch levels in all Commonwealth fisheries.
The policy is a key component of the Australian Government's $220m Securing our Fishing Future initiative to ensure the future profitability and sustainability of the Commonwealth fishing industry.
Australian Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation Minister Senator Eric Abetz said the draft policy had been developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including the fishing industry and scientific research organisations and had been peer-reviewed by international experts.
'Australia's Commonwealth-managed fisheries are an important contributor to the national economy and support many thousands of jobs in regional coastal communities. It's critical that they are managed both sustainably and profitably,' Senator Abetz said.
'This policy has been developed in consultation with some of the world's leading experts in fisheries science and, together with the significant structural reforms recently achieved through the Government's $148m licence buyback, will better position the industry for a sustainable and profitable future.'
Harvest strategies based on the final policy will be applied in all Commonwealth fisheries by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority by 1 January 2008.
This timeframe allows for a consultation period that will run for two months, closing on 11 May 2007. Information sessions on the detail in the draft policy and related guidelines will be held with stakeholders to ensure the content is clear and well understood before the policy is finalised.
Key stakeholder organisations will be contacted directly to inform them of the dates and locations of the information sessions.
The Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines for Implementation of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy documents are available online at www.daff.gov.au/harveststrategypolicy
Anyone with an interest in Commonwealth-managed fisheries is invited to send comments on the draft policy and guidelines to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry at email@example.com or by phone on (02) 6272 5402.
Sea lion. Image courtesy of Glen Cowans.
Seaweek 2007 provided an opportunity to launch the Australian Government's National Seal Strategy and announce the first SeaNet officer for Tasmania.
The National Seal Strategy, with its associated scientific report, aims to create a coordinated approach to minimising adverse human-seal interactions in commercial fisheries, aquaculture and tourism ventures.
Ms Fiona Ewing was announced as the first SeaNet Officer for Tasmania. Ms Ewing will provide an environmental extension service to the Australian seafood fishing industry, helping with the development and adoption of fishing gear, technology and methods to minimise by-catch and continuing to improve the ecological sustainability of Australia's commercial fisheries.
Funding for the projects was provided by the Australian Government through the Natural Heritage Trust.
Seaweek 2007 was celebrated from 4-11 March.
Seahorse. Image courtesy of Photolibrary.com
'Marine science in a changing world' is the theme for the Australian Marine Sciences Association annual conference in 2007.
Held at the University of Melbourne from 9-13 July, the conference will include sessions on:
- International Polar Year - celebrating polar science;
- climate change and the marine environment;
- human impacts and threat assessments in marine environments;
- advances in estuarine science;
- Marine Protected Areas: scientific developments;
- introduced marine species;
- shipping and the environment;
- changes in temperate marine ecology; and
- marine education and advances in community-based monitoring
For further details, go to www.amsa.asn.au