HSI negotiates improvements to Australia’s largest fishery
In January 2008 Humane Society International (HSI) announced significant improvements to Australia’s largest fishery as a result of negotiations with the federal Department of Environment and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.
HSI brought a legal challenge against former federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell’s decision in December 2006 to declare the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) an ecologically sustainable Wildlife Trade Operation under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, 1999.
HSI argued that the fishery has a detrimental impact on a number of threatened species including the Australian sea lion, eastern gemfish, Harrison’s dogfish, school shark, orange roughy and species of albatross and petrel. Our legal challenge posed a threat to the fishery’s ability to continue exporting.
The SESSF fishery extends from Fraser Island in Queensland to Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia and lands over 35,000 tonnes of fish annually with a value of approximately $95 million.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) encouraged the parties to the dispute to negotiate a settlement to avoid a full court hearing. After months of negotiations, a settlement was concluded last week with HSI successfully negotiating the imposition of five additional conditions on the fishery to ameliorate its impact on threatened species (see below).
“HSI is pleased we have secured conditions that will lead to increased protection for the Australian sea lion, eastern gemfish, Harrison’s dogfish and threatened albatross and petrels. We will continue to monitor management of the fishery to ensure the conditions are implemented successfully,” said Nicola Beynon, HSI Wildlife and Habitat Program Manager.
In addition, Minister Garrett is due to assess nominations for eastern gemfish, school shark and Harrison’s dogfish for formal protection as threatened species under the EPBC Act. Orange roughy is now listed as a threatened species.
HSI notes that the former Government amended the EPBC Act to remove the right of conservation groups to bring challenges against Ministerial decisions governing wildlife imports and exports, rights which had existed since the 1980s. The ALP opposed this amendment at the time and HSI is looking forward to Minister Peter Garrett reinstating our appeal rights in the review of the EPBC Act he has foreshadowed.
The conditions added to the Minister’s declaration of the SESSF as an approved Wildlife Trade Operation are:
- investigate and report back to the DEWHA by 30 June 2008 on methods of reducing the capture and subsequent discard of the juvenile eastern gemfish within the Commonwealth trawl sector, including particular consideration of gear modifications and spatial closures, and review the utility of bycatch quotas; and
- implement by 1 May 2009 effective measures identified in paragraph (1) to ensure the take of juvenile eastern gemfish is not impeding the rebuilding of the stock.
Australian sea lions:
AFMA, after considering advice from relevant experts, to develop and implement management measures, including fishery closures, that take account of site specific issues and which seek to minimise the risks of interaction between fisheries regulated by AFMA and sea lions by 21 December 2009.
- investigate and report back to DEWHA by 31 December 2008 on the extent and nature of seabird interactions in the trawl sectors of the SESSF and effective mitigation measures including offal management;
- in accordance with the findings of the report required by paragraph (1), develop and implement effective seabird mitigation measures to minimise interactions in the trawl sectors of the SESSF by 30 June 2009; and
- operate the SESSF in accordance with the 2006 Threat Abatement Plan for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations.
- investigate and report back to DEHA by 31 December 2008 on the extent and nature of Harrison’s dogfish interactions in all sectors of the SESSF; and
- in accordance with the findings of the report required by paragraph (1) develop and implement effective mitigation measures including consideration of additional closures, to minimise interactions with each sector of the SESSF by 30 June 2009.
By 31 December, AFMA to ensure statistically robust levels of ongoing observer effort (or other reliable method) to validate the nature and level of interactions by area, season and fishery for all bycatch species that are identified as high risk through ecological risk assessment processes.
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