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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp

5 November 2003

Environmental Benchmark for WA's Pearl Oyster Fishery

Western Australia's valuable northern pearl oyster fishery has been acknowledged by the Australian Government for its ecologically sustainable management of fisheries.

Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and Western Australia's Minister for Fisheries, Kim Chance, today announced the fishery's accreditation under the Australian Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.

The accreditation approval also applies to aquaculture pearl oyster species after the Australian Government concluded harvest of pearl oysters from the wild, for use in aquaculture practices, had little impact.

"Today's acknowledgement is part of an exhaustive study by the Australian Government of Australia's 117 fisheries that ensures fishing operations are conducted in accordance with management plans and the Australian Government's Guidelines for the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries. This study will be completed next year," Dr Kemp said.

"These fishery management plans, developed by Australian and State government agencies, aim to ensure the continued conservation and sustainability of the fisheries and protected marine species that live in these fisheries."

Dr Kemp said only catch from fisheries that demonstrate they are being managed in an ecologically sustainable way, can be exempted from the export controls of the EPBC Act. This is to ensure trade does not threaten Australia's wildlife.

"The focus of fisheries management has previously been on protecting target species from over-fishing. Now, with Australia strongly committed to the principles of ecologically sustainable development, the focus is on managing the total impact of fishing on the environment," he said.

"The Australian Government has developed a range of criteria to assess the ecologically sustainable management of each fishery and to ensure fish and other marine wildlife enjoy the same protection as other native wildlife."

Western Australia's pearl oyster industry is the world's top producer of the highly-prized silver South Sea pearls that come from the silver lipped pearl oyster (Pinctada maxima). WA pearl companies have an enviable record for producing a high quality product, worth around $200 million annually.

Dr Kemp said the Australian Government and WA Fisheries will continue to work together to ensure the fisheries continue to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way. A review of its accreditation will be conducted in five years time.

Commonwealth of Australia