Threatened species under the EPBC Act

Categories of threatened species

Threatened fauna and flora may be listed in any one of the following categories as defined in Section 179 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act):

Section 179 Categories of threatened species

(1) A native species is eligible to be included in the extinct category at a particular time if, at that time, there is no reasonable doubt that the last member of the species has died.

(2) A native species is eligible to be included in the extinct in the wild category at a particular time if, at that time:

(a) it is known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population well outside its past range; or
(b) it has not been recorded in its known and/or expected habitat, at appropriate seasons, anywhere in its past range, despite exhaustive surveys over a time frame appropriate to its life cycle and form.

(3) A native species is eligible to be included in the critically endangered category at a particular time if, at that time, it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future, as determined in accordance with the prescribed criteria.

(4) A native species is eligible to be included in the endangered category at a particular time if, at that time:

(a) it is not critically endangered; and
(b) it is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future, as determined in accordance with the prescribed criteria.

(5) A native species is eligible to be included in the vulnerable category at a particular time if, at that time:

(a) it is not critically endangered or endangered; and
(b) it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium term future, as determined in accordance with the prescribed criteria.

(6) A native species is eligible to be included in the conservation dependent category at a particular time if, at that time:

(a) the species is the focus of a specific conservation program the cessation of which would result in the species becoming vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered; or
(b) the following subparagraphs are satisfied:

(i) the species is a species of fish;
(ii) the species is the focus of a plan of management that provides for management actions necessary to stop the decline of, and support the recovery of, the species so that its chances of long term survival in nature are maximised;
(iii) the plan of management is in force under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory;
(iv) cessation of the plan of management would adversely affect the conservation status of the species.

(7) In subsection (6):

fish includes all species of bony fish, sharks, rays, crustaceans, molluscs and other marine organisms, but does not include marine mammals or marine reptiles.

Species listed as 'conservation dependent' and 'extinct' are not matters of national environmental significance and therefore do not trigger the EPBC Act.

Nominations for listing

The assessment of species as threatened fauna or threatened flora is the first step to promoting their recovery under Commonwealth law.

Any person may nominate a native species for listing under any of the threatened species categories.

An invitation to nominate is extended by the Minister each year ahead of a new assessment cycle. Nominations received during the invitation period are considered by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) for inclusion in a proposed priority assessment list.

Nominations included on the finalised priority assessment list are assessed by the Committee, which makes these nominations available for public and expert comment. After assessment, the Committee's advice is forwarded to the Minister, who must decide whether a species is eligible for listing under the EPBC Act within 90 business days of receiving the advice of the TSSC.

Protecting listed threatened species

Once a species is listed under the EPBC Act its recovery is promoted using conservation advice, recovery plans, and the EPBC Act's assessment and approval provisions.

Conservation advices

Conservation advice is developed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee based on the best available information regarding the conservation status and threats to an ecological community at the time of listing. Conservation Advice provides guidance on known threats and priority recovery actions for an ecological community that can be immediately undertaken at a local and regional level.

Recovery plans

In addition to conservation advice, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee also provides to the Minister a recommendation on the need for a recovery plan for listed species. Recovery plans are comprehensive management tools that enable recovery activities for threatened species to occur within a planned and logical framework. Recovery plans describe key threats and identify specific recovery actions and can be for either single or multiple species, or based on a region.

Assessment and approval provisions

Listed threatened species are matters of national environmental significance (protected matters) under the EPBC Act's assessment and approval provisions.

A person must not take an action that has, will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a listed threatened ecological community, without approval from the Minister.

To obtain approval, an action must undergo an environmental assessment and approval process. To find out whether an action is likely to have a 'significant' impact on a listed threatened species, read the following:

More information

To find out if a listed threatened species is on your property or area of interest, use the following tool:

For a comprehensive understanding of the provisions relating to listed threatened species, you should refer directly to the:

See also: general information about the EPBC Act.

For general information about threat abatement plans contact the Australian Government Department of the Environment Community Information Unit:

Email: ciu@environment.gov.au

Freecall: 1800 803 772