David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 4 February 2003
Hon Chris Burns MLA,
Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries
GPO BOX 3000
Darwin NT 0801
In May 2002 Northern Territory Fisheries submitted the document Assessing the Ecological Sustainability of the Northern Territory Spanish Mackerel Fishery for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The submission has been assessed in accordance with the protected species provisions of Part 13 and the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the EPBC Act.
I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the EA website at: www.ea.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.
I am satisfied that it is unlikely that fishing operations conducted in accordance with the management arrangements will adversely affect the conservation status of protected species, or affect the survival and recovery of threatened species. The management arrangements for the fishery require that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed and the level of interactions with such species in the fishery is not likely to adversely affect the conservation status of protected species or the survival and recovery of listed threatened species. Hence, the management arrangements for the NT Spanish Mackerel Fishery meet the requirements of Part 13 of the Act and I propose to accredit the management arrangements accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management arrangements are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species in Commonwealth waters.
I am satisfied that for the purposes of the wildlife trade provisions in part 13A of the EPBC Act, the management arrangements provide the basis for the fishery to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. I therefore propose to amend the list of exempt native specimens, to include all specimens taken in the Spanish Mackerel Fishery, for a period of five years. Such listing will serve to exempt the fishery from other export controls of the Act and exempt exporters from requiring export permits under the Act.
The management arrangements for the fishery meet the Commonwealth's Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. The fishery is managed under a comprehensive, adaptable, precautionary and ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. The combination of management arrangements, data gathering, proposed research and nature of the target species provides confidence in the fishery's ability to maintain relatively low bycatch levels, minimise interaction with protected species and manage impacts on the wider ecosystem.
While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that NT Fisheries is addressing them adequately. Officers from our two departments have discussed some key areas requiring ongoing attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on ensuring the continuation of good management practices, to be implemented before the next Commonwealth review of the fishery. These recommendations, attached to the letter, have been an important factor in my decision to exempt the fishery and I look forward to receiving your agreement to the implement them.
I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment and I look forward to reviewing the remainder of the Northern Territory managed fisheries.
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
4 February 2003
Recommendations to the Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development on the ecologically sustainable management of the Northern Territory Spanish Mackerel Fishery
Before the next review in 2008, NT Fisheries will:
Recommendation 1. Inform Department of the Environment and Heritage of any future amendment to the management regime for the Spanish Mackerel Fishery.
Recommendation 2. Formalise the objectives, performance indicators, trigger points and management actions outlined in Table 1 of the NT submission into the Spanish Mackerel Management plan, where appropriate.
Recommendation 3. Implement the Byproduct Action Plan, for fisheries targeting species other than Spanish mackerel, within the first year.
Recommendation 4. Report on objectives, performance indicators and triggers in the annual status report.
Recommendation 5. Conduct a compliance risk assessment for the Spanish Mackerel Fishery.
Recommendation 6. By 2005 formalize guidelines, including clear timeframes for implementation, for undertaking review of the fisheries management arrangements once reference points and triggers are reached.
Recommendation 6. Continue to seek out alternative cost effective fishery independent sampling techniques and report outcomes in the annual status report.
Recommendation 8. Include yearly results of observer surveys (including information on target species, bycatch and protected species interactions) in the annual status report and implement alternative data collection validation techniques if observer trips are no longer feasible.
Recommendation 9. Make reporting of all protected species interactions compulsory and implement an education program to ensure industry has the capacity to make accurate reports.
Recommendation 10. Gather information that would support a move to a precautionary biological reference point for Spanish mackerel.
Recommendation 11. Monitor the species composition of bycatch and byproduct with a view to undertaking a more rigorous risk analysis, if there is a significant increase in the catch of individual species.
Recommendation 12. Monitor the size composition of the commercial catch of Spanish mackerel and introduce additional management measures if the catch composition shifts to pre mature fish.