Outcomes from the 35th PZJA meeting

At its meeting on 27 August 2020, the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) made a number of decisions in relation to Torres Strait fisheries. These include:

1. Black teatfish opening

The PZJA agreed to a trial opening of the fishery for black teatfish (Holothuria whitmaei), a species within the Torres Strait Beche-de-mer (BDM) Fishery. The trial opening is subject to a 20 tonne competitive Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and requirement of daily landing and reporting to AFMA of catch through the mandatory fish receiver system.

The PZJA also agreed for AFMA to set the date of the opening, having regard for:

  1. advice from industry recommending that the opening be convened in April 2021, and that in the meantime, meetings be held with fishers to agree on further voluntary arrangements and to instil accurate daily catch and effort reporting;
  2. impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and AFMA’s ability to communicate and monitor arrangements for an opening.

AFMA has written to all BDM licence holders advising of the PZJA decision to open black teatfish and the next steps regarding consultation with fishers and Traditional Owners to set up appropriate arrangements for the opening proposed for 2021.

The letter also advises of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II listing of black teatfish and white teatfish (H. fuscogilva), and recent amendment by the Delegate of the Minister for the Environment to the conditions of the current wildlife trade operation (WTO) declaration for the BDM Fishery to allow for the export of the CITES listed species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The new conditions require the PZJA to limit the take of white teatfish to the current 15 TAC for the species and 0 tonnes for black teatfish. These conditions are in place until the current WTO expires on 17 December 2020, at such time a reassessment of the BDM Fishery as a WTO is to be completed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the Department).

To progress the agreed black teatfish opening, AFMA will seek an amendment to the BDM Fishery’s WTO conditions and continue to submit to the Department, all available scientific information and advice for the Fishery to support this process.

Further information on the black teatfish opening, CITES listing of black teatfish and the letter to BDM licence holders is available on the PZJA website.

2. Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018 (TRL Plan) – Draft amendment for public consultation

The PZJA agreed to release a draft amendment to the TRL Management Plan for public consultation. The draft amendment extends the period for the PZJA to commence the quota allocation review from within two years, to within four years of the TRL Plan commencement.  

AFMA has written to all TRL licence holders providing further information on the draft amendment and seeking comment as part of the public consultation.

Find more information on the PZJA website.

3. Remaking Torres Strait Fisheries Legislative Instruments

The PZJA agreed to make the following new legislative instruments under the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984 (the Act):

  1. Torres Strait Fisheries (Finfish) Management Instrument 2020;
  2. Torres Strait Fisheries (Pearl Shell) Management Instrument 2020;
  3. Torres Strait Fisheries (Coral and Live Rock) Management Instrument 2020; and
  4. Torres Strait Fisheries (Furnishing of Logbooks) Instrument 2020.

Under the Act the PZJA may make legislative instruments to regulate fishing. These instruments are one of a range of tools used to manage Torres Strait Fisheries (other tools include, licence conditions, management plans and polices). Instruments are generally subject to sunsetting, meaning that they automatically cease after a certain period of time. Three of these new instruments replace existing instruments that are set to cease on 31 December 2020 (applicable to the Finfish Fishery, Pearl Shell Fishery and Coral and Live Rock). Until 30 December 2020, the existing instruments remains in force. 

Additionally, the PZJA agreed to remake a legislative instrument relating to the furnishing of logbooks. The purpose of the logbook instrument is to require the master of a licenced boat, who uses that boat in the course of commercial fishing (other than community fishing) to complete a Daily Fishing Logbook. The new logbook instrument does not change the existing requirement for TRL TVH, Sunset and Prawn operators to fill in logbooks. 

4. Developmental Permits for Training Purposes Policy

The PZJA adopted the PZJA Developmental Permit for Training Purposes (Training Permit) Policy.

Further details on the implementation of the Training Permit Policy and application dates are yet to be confirmed. Once these are in place, licence holders will be advised and this information will be made available on the PZJA website.

5. Start of Season Total Allowable Catch for the Tropical Rock Lobster (TRL) Fishery

The PZJA agreed, consistent with advice from the PZJA TRL Resource Assessment Group (TRLRAG) and TRL Working Group (TRLWG), for the Australian Torres Strait TRL Fishery to have a start of season total allowable catch (TAC) of 200 tonnes (unprocessed weight) for the 2020-21 fishing season, commencing on 1 December 2020.

Immediately following the PZJA meeting, Senator the Hon. Jonathon Duniam formally determined a 200 tonne start of season TAC for the 2020-21 fishing season of the Australian Torres Strait TRL Fishery.

AFMA has written to TRL licence holder advising of the TAC determination and providing further explanation on how TAC’s are determined for the TRL Fishery, how catch is shared between Australia and Papua New Guinea, and how each sector’s catches will be managed for the 2020-21 fishing season. This information is also available on the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery page.

6. Policy approval for legislative amendments

The PZJA approved further amendments to the Act and Regulations to be prepared for the PZJA’s consideration that are consistent with providing immediate improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of fisheries administration in the Torres Strait.

7. Replacing PZJA delegations under section 38 of Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984 (the Act)

The PZJA agreed to delegate powers under section 38 of the Act to appropriate staff within the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).

Further information on the above PZJA decision items is available from the PZJA website.

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