Commonwealth managed fisheries must all be strategically assessed by the Minister for Environment and Heritage, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The requirements for assessment are set out in this Act and that Minister has advised AFMA that strategic assessment reports must, as part of their terms of reference, address the ecological sustainability guidelines, which were initially prepared for Schedule 4 of the Wildlife Protection Regulation of Exports and Imports Act 1982 (WP(REI) Act).
In addition, through the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, all Australian Commonwealth and State fisheries ministers have endorsed the National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch, which includes sharks and other chondrichthyans. The Commonwealth has recently released its bycatch policy, which builds on the endorsed National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch and commits the Commonwealth to developing a Bycatch Action Plan for each major Commonwealth fishery by 31 March 2001. Bycatch Action Plans have now been published for the SFF and SENTF, the SETF, and the GABTF.
Australia is a signatory to the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-Sharks), which was ratified by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Committee of Fisheries during February 1999. As a signatory, Australia is obliged to develop a National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks). AFFA established a Shark Advisory Group to prepare a Shark Assessment Report and to develop the Australian NPOA-Sharks. The Group includes representatives from all key government and non-government stakeholder groups, including shark specialists. Progress on development of the Report and Australia's NPOA-Sharks was reported to the FAO Committee of Fisheries during February 2001.
All of these initiatives require considerably more data for their full implementation. An AFMA funded project titled Ecological Risk Assessment for Commonwealth Fisheries, scheduled to finish by 31 August 2003, is under way to develop appropriate methods for risk assessment. The present project proposal is designed to address the data requirements for shark and other chondrichthyan species in the SSF, SENTF, SETF, and GABTF and to apply the agreed methods of ecological risk assessment developed through the ERA Project to these species.