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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

11 August 2000

Environmental Assessment of Australia's Fisheries


The Howard Government has implemented a key promise made during the 1998 election to subject Australian fisheries to assessments for ecological sustainability.

The election commitment was restated in Australia's Ocean's Policy, launched by the Federal Government in December 1998.

In accordance with this commitment, an exemption from export controls will be provided for marine species harvested in accordance with management arrangements assessed as ecologically sustainable. This system will replace the existing blanket exemption from export controls for marine species.

The new approach to marine species is consistent with the Commonwealth's approach to forestry products, which are exempt from export controls if derived from native forests assessed as being harvested in an ecologically sustainable manner.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says that the move is a major step forward in ensuring the economic and ecological sustainability of the fishing industry.

"The best guarantee of continued profitability in the fishing industry is to ensure that its actions are ecologically sustainable.

Senator Hill indicated that transitional arrangements would ensure that the existing blanket exemption from export controls will remain in force until December 2002.

"Over the next two and a half years, each fishery will be subject to an environmental assessment to determine its eligibility for exemption from export controls after December 2002. These assessments are set to commence immediately.

"The environmental assessments will help ensure that management of Australian fisheries is ecologically sustainable and consistent with world's best practise. Assessments will take into account impacts on target species, by-catch and marine habitat such as the seabed.

"The guidelines for the environmental assessments have been developed after extensive consultation with industry, State governments and environment groups. They will ensure a rigorous and transparent assessment process conducted in close cooperation with fishing agencies and the industry."

After December 2002, marine species will remain exempt from the Wildlife Protection Act if relevant management arrangements have been assessed as ecologically sustainable. For other species, exports will be subject to approval under the Wildlife Protection Act.

Copies of the guidelines for environmental assessment are available at

http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/fisheries/assessment/main.html

Media contact: Matt Brown on 02 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515

Commonwealth of Australia