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Monday, 15 March 2010
Page: 2429

Mr GARRETT (Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts) (3:59 PM) —in reply—On 25 January this year I announced that the government would be acting to address the disproportionate impacts on recreational fishers that have resulted from the inflexible relationship between our national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Recreational Fishing for Mako and Porbeagle Sharks) Bill 2010 specifically addresses those impacts. As required by the EPBC Act, I have listed shortfin mako, longfin mako and porbeagle sharks as migratory species. This listing became effective on 29 January 2010. Importantly, this is a legal requirement following inclusion of these sharks in appendix II of the convention on migratory species—a decision which was driven primarily by concern for Northern Hemisphere populations of those species. It is a requirement that was in place in relation to the EPBC Act during the term of the previous government.

The government is aware that the domestic listing of mako and porbeagle sharks has significant implications for recreational fishers in Australia. The government is also aware that there is no evidence to suggest that mako or porbeagle populations in Australian waters are threatened. The government recognises the social and cultural importance of recreational fishing to many Australians. We also appreciate that much recreational fishing activity is carried out in a sustainable manner—for example, using catch-and-release methods. This bill will address those disproportionate impacts on recreational fishers by providing a narrow exception for recreational fishing of longfin mako, shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks to the offence provisions of part 13, division 2 of the EPBC Act. That means it will not be an offence to kill, injure, take, trade, keep or move mako or porbeagle sharks in or from Commonwealth waters where that action is taken in the course of recreational fishing. Importantly, this bill will not affect state regulation of recreational fishing of these species. Neither does the bill apply to commercial fisheries, which will continue to be subject to the ongoing accreditation processes under part 13 of the EPBC Act. The bill does not affect the offences under part 3 of the EPBC Act, nor will it affect prohibitions under division 1 of part 13 of the EPBC Act, relating to listed threatened species, should mako or porbeagle sharks be listed as threatened species at any time in the future.

The recently completed independent review of the EPBC Act identified this inflexibility of the legislation when it comes to the listing of species included in appendix II of the CMS convention and to the limited exceptions to offences as a problem that needed to be fixed. While the government will be responding in full to the recommendations of that review, we think it is important to act earlier on this matter because the listing of makos impacts disproportionately on recreational fishers. In this regard I would like again to acknowledge the work of the member for Corangamite, Darren Cheeseman, the member for Braddon, Sid Sidebottom, and contributions by the member for Leichhardt, the member for Hindmarsh and the member for Lyne. The member for Corangamite and the member for Braddon have large numbers of recreational fishers in their electorates, and they have worked with those groups and my office to bring this legislative change forward on behalf of their constituents. The Australian government is committed to and is actively implementing its international obligations under the convention, and we recognise that by virtue of their inclusion in appendix II these species require collaborative international efforts to aid their conservation. The proposed changes to the EPBC Act that this bill contains will ensure that, consistent with our international obligations, international changes to the status of mako and porbeagle sharks will not affect recreational fishing activities in Australia.

The government remains committed to shark conservation measures both domestically and internationally and will continue its active engagement in efforts under the convention on migratory species and in other fora. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.