Proposed multiple import of hard corals for taxonomic identification

Comments invited

The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is considering granting a permit to the Museum of Tropical Queensland (MTQ), to import multiple hard coral specimens (Scleractinia spp.) from various countries under the exceptional circumstances provision (section 303GB) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Museum of Tropical Queensland (MTQ), a Queensland statutory authority, has historically received hard coral specimens (CITES Appendix II) from various countries, on an ad hoc basis, for taxonomic identification and subsequent re-export. This institution is considered an expert in coral taxonomy and has provided this service to a number of researchers throughout the world.

Under Section 303GB 1(c) of the EPBC Act, in order to issue an exceptional circumstances permit, the Minister or delegate must be satisfied that:

  1. the export or import of the specimen, as the case may be, would not be contrary to the objects of this Part; and
  2. exceptional circumstances exist that justify the proposed export or import of the specimen; and
  3. the export or import of the specimen, as the case may be, would not adversely affect biodiversity.

Under Section 303GB 1(A) the Minister or delegate must not issue a permit under this section unless the grant of that permit would not be contrary to CITES.

The department is considering this application under the exceptional circumstances provision because:

  • the proposed import of the corals would not be contrary to the objectives of Part 13A of the EPBC Act;
  • it is believed exceptional circumstances justify the proposed import, being:
    • the importer performs a valuable service to the scientific community through providing a better understanding and increased knowledge of hard corals that can assist conservation of coral species and reef ecosystems;
    • the corals are imported purely for the purpose of taxonomic identification; and
    • the import of the specimens is non-commercial
  • the proposed import would not adversely affect biodiversity, as the coral is non-live, consists of very small quantities and must be approved by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Biosecurity (DAFF Biosecurity) prior to importation into Australia.
  • the grant of the permit would not be contrary to CITES.

Should the permit be granted, it is proposed that a condition will be imposed which specifies that during or after the research, the importer must not allow the specimens/s to be used for commercial purposes. In the majority of cases most specimens are exported back to the country of origin.

The public were invited to provide written comments on the proposal to issue this permit. The comment period closed 30 September 2010.