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Monday, 21 June 2010
Page: 3823

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) (8:04 PM) —On 29 January this year, the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts, the Hon. Peter Garrett, announced the government would be acting to address the disproportionate impacts on recreational fishers that have resulted from the inflexible relationship between a national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, the CMS. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Recreational Fishing for Mako and Porbeagle Sharks) Bill 2010 specifically addresses those impacts. As required by legislation, Minister Garrett listed shortfin mako, longfin mako and porbeagle sharks as migratory species under the EPBC Act. The listing became effective on 29 January 2010. This is a legal requirement following inclusion of these sharks on appendix II of the CMS, a decision driven primarily by concern for Northern Hemisphere populations of these species.

The government is aware that the domestic listing of mako and porbeagle sharks has implications for recreational fishers in Australia. 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 division 2, part 13 of the EPBC Act. This means that 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.

This bill will not affect state regulation of recreational fishing of these species. The bill does not apply to commercial fisheries, which will continue to be the subject of 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, 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 the inflexibility of the legislation when it comes to the listing of species included in appendix II of the CMS, and the limited exceptions to offences is 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 separately on this matter because the listing of makos impacts disproportionately on recreational fishers in a way that exceeds our obligations under the convention on migratory species.

The Australian government is committed to and is actively implementing its international obligations under the convention. We recognise that by virtue of their inclusion in appendix II these species require collaborative international efforts to aid their conservation. The changes to the EPBC Act proposed by this bill 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 thank all of those who have contributed to the debate.

Question agreed to.

Original question, as amended, agreed to.

Bill read a second time.