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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP



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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

5 April 2004

Australia's Northern Prawn Fishery thrives

The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today visited the Northern Prawn Fishery in Darwin to recognise its contribution in establishing one of the country's true sustainable fisheries.

“In its commitment to prevent the over exploitation of our fishing resources, the Australian Government has put in place an assessment process that has been driving positive environmental change in our fisheries, making us world leaders in sustainable fisheries management,” Dr Kemp said

“The Northern Prawn Fishery, under the management of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, heeded early warnings and acted quickly to reduce its environmental impact and address the over fishing of some species and large incidental catch volumes.

“Under the fishery's responsible and proactive ecological management, the Grooved Tiger Prawn has recovered and is no longer over fished, and a recovery strategy and monitoring program is in place to recover the Brown Tiger Prawn to ecologically viable levels.

“The fishery has also reduced marine turtle catches by 95 per cent using Turtle Excluder Devices, and has significantly reduced incidental catch of sea snakes, sea horses, pipefish, finfish and some shark species through the use of Bycatch Reduction Devices.

“Overfishing is an international concern which can be catastrophic not only for food supplies but also for many national economies. A sad example is the Atlantic Cod fishery off the east coast of Newfoundland, that never recovered after it collapsed in 1992, leaving 40 000 people out of work,” Dr Kemp said.

All Commonwealth managed fisheries must now undergo an independent environment audit under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. By 1 December 2004, these fisheries will have been assessed to ensure they are managed in an ecologically sustainable way. After that date, no Australian fishery will be able to export without an approval.

“The Northern Prawn Fishery, with its good record of responding promptly to environmental concerns, is an excellent example of what this process is already achieving,” Dr Kemp said.

“This fishery has made tremendous achievements, but there is always room to improve, and I have made some recommendations to further improve the management of the fishery over the next five years. For example, the fishery must cut its incidental catch of sawfish and manage their catch of scampi, squid and bugs to ensure they are not overfished.”

The Northern Prawn Fishery encompasses 771 000 square kilometres of Australia's northern coast and is one of the most valuable Australian Government fisheries, with an average gross annual production value of $100 million.

Fisheries assessment fact sheet

Overfishing is an international concern which, since the collapse of major international fisheries such as the Atlantic Cod and the Anchovy, has become a major issue for global food security and for many national economies. The Australian Government has responded proactively to these concerns through the establishment of a fisheries assessment process, becoming a world leader in sustainable fisheries management.

Historically, fisheries management has focused on the species targeted, but fishing can impact on other species that are not targeted but caught and discarded or kept for their commercial value. The assessment process has significantly expanded the focus of fisheries management to consider the broader range of impacts and concentrate on the protection of entire ecosystems rather than individual species.

All Commonwealth managed fisheries and all state export fisheries must now undergo an independent environment audit under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Under the audit, the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) assesses each fishery to determine if it is being managed in an ecologically sustainable way. After December 2004, no Australian fishery will be able to export without an approval under the EPBC Act.

DEH evaluates fisheries against criteria set out in the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries requiring that the fishery:

The assessment process ensures that fisheries have the capacity to undertake the reforms, and have systems in place to detect negative trends and to respond appropriately to such trends.

Fisheries that are consistent with the guidelines are able to export their fish products for three or five years, while recommendations for further improvements specific to each fishery are implemented. While DEH continues to work with industry and fishery managers to improve performance, the fishery is accountable for implementation of the recommendations. Export can be prohibited, should they fail to do so.

The ongoing assessments will allow DEH to instigate continual improvement in fisheries management and to achieve a truly sustainable industry.

There are 118 fisheries to assess under the EPBC Act by 1 December 2004. To date, 31 have been completed 59 are in progress, and 28 are yet to commence the assessment process.

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Commonwealth of Australia