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APPENDIX 5 Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

Legislation according with Ecological Sustainable Development Principles

AFMA's implementation of the ecological component of ecologically sustainable development is based on ecosystem elements relating to:

  • target and by-product species
  • bycatch
  • threatened, endangered and protected species
  • habitats and ecological communities.

To support and implement an ecologically sustainable development approach, we draw upon ecological risk assessments for each Commonwealth fishery. Ecological risk assessments involve a number of methods, including comprehensive qualitative and quantitative analyses. This approach screens out low risk activities, focusing on higher actual and potential risks within Commonwealth fisheries.

The results of these risk assessments for each fishery are consolidated into a priority list upon which an ecological risk management strategy is focused. A detailed ecological risk management strategy for each AFMA managed fishery has been prepared, clearly identifying how each species or group of species will be managed.

AFMA is transitioning to a Fisheries Management Strategy reporting framework where, on a fishery by fishery basis, all of the relevant parts of our strategies and management arrangements are compiled into a comprehensive document about each fishery. These Fisheries Management Strategies will be used for reporting purposes.

AFMA has completed and published ecological risk management reports for all Commonwealth fisheries to address identified fishing risks. The number of species remaining at high potential risk across all Commonwealth fisheries is 87, which is 4.3 per cent of all species assessed. It is expected that the number of “potential high risk” fisheries will reduce in some fisheries as they are reassessed under the revised Ecological Risk Assessment methodology using improved information gathered through increased observer coverage and the introduction of e-monitoring.

Outcome contributing to Ecological Sustainable Development

AFMA's outcomes are directed at Commonwealth fisheries being ecologically sustainable, improving the net economic returns from Commonwealth fisheries and managing efficiently and effectively.

This approach reflects our commitment to pursuing management of Commonwealth fisheries in accordance with our legislative objectives and in partnership with others who also have an interest in sustainable management.

Effect of actions on the environment

All of AFMA's managed fisheries are currently accredited under three parts of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Part 10 of the Act requires that all Commonwealth and Torres Strait Fisheries must be strategically assessed before a management plan is determined (Section 148) or where a determination is made that a management plan is not required for a Commonwealth fishery (Section 149). If a management plan is amended or replaced, or management arrangements change significantly in a fishery without a management plan, then a further assessment is required (Section 152). If a management plan remains unchanged no further strategic assessment is required. This process involves assessment of the impact of the fishery on matters of national environmental significance with particular emphasis on the impact on the Commonwealth marine environment. Without this approval a management plan cannot take effect.

Part 13 of the Act defines a number of offences in relation to listed threatened species and ecological communities, and also provides for accreditation of management plans or regimes (Sections 208A, 222A, 245, 265). The effect of accreditation is that certain actions are not offences if they are carried out in accordance with management plans or regimes. There is no requirement to remake the accreditation decisions unless the management plans or regimes change. These accreditations impose a requirement on fishers to report any interactions with protected species to AFMA through our logbooks, which we in turn provide regular reports to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on fishers' behalf, thus reducing unnecessary duplication of reporting.

Part 13A of the Act covers the international movement of wildlife specimens. It provides for controls over the movement of regulated native specimens that are not on the list of exempt native specimens. Currently products from all assessed Commonwealth fisheries are on the list of exempt native specimens, although some are subject to the condition that the listing applies only while a wildlife trade operation is in force. This allows exports of marine species to be carried out while ensuring that they have been taken sustainably.

Actions to minimise impact on the environment

We take an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management to minimise the impact of commercial fisheries on the marine environment. The Ecological Risk Management Policy, and accompanying Ecological Risk Management Guide, provide a science and evidence based structure for managing the impact of fishing on the marine environment. The framework uses Ecological Risk Assessment for the Effects of Fishing as the primary means of assessing the risks that fisheries may pose and provides a mechanism for the identification and management of any identified risks. Revised methodologies in the Ecological Risk Assessment for the Effects of Fishing framework are being applied to fisheries as they are reassessed. The results of these assessments are reported in the performance section.

Mechanisms for reviewing

A number of mechanisms exist for reviewing the effect of fishing on the environment.

AFMA reviewed its Ecological Risk Management Framework and the Commission approved the Ecological Risk Management Guide and Ecological Risk Management Policy in April and June 2017 respectively. AFMA also regularly reviews individual elements of the Ecological Risk Management Framework through the Ecological Risk Management Steering Committee. This group of expert risk assessment fisheries scientists and fishery managers is tasked with providing strategic advice to the AFMA Commission and AFMA Management on the direction, development, coordination and implementation of AFMA’s risk management framework.

We are also subject to reassessment of all its fisheries under Part 13A of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Department of Environment, Water and Environment undertake the reassessments on a regular basis, ranging from a ten year review cycle for fisheries granted exemptions to a more regular review process for fisheries granted wildlife trade operations.