Page 1800 - Week 05 - Thursday, 16 May 2019

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The bill will improve protection for native fish and their habitat through the declaration of critical habitat. This may include certain areas that we know are important to native fish or habitat structures such as large snags in rivers. A declaration allows for better management and protection of fish habitat by raising community awareness and applying penalties for disturbance, destruction or removal.

Introduced fish species can be a major risk to native fish, and the bill provides a power for the conservator to make a declaration whereby people can be fined if caught returning fish species, such as redfin perch, to an area such as the Cotter catchment. This provision will help to protect fish such as the endangered Macquarie perch from disease carried by the redfin perch.

The bill addresses a gap in legislation by introducing provisions for aquaculture. Conservator of Flora and Fauna guidelines may be developed under the Fisheries Act on how aquaculture is to be undertaken in the territory. Guidelines could specify things such as appropriate species to be farmed and appropriate care and management of fish. A licence will also be required for aquaculture activities with a capacity of over 10,000 litres, which is in line with management in other jurisdictions.

Feedback received during public consultation, including from the ACT recreational fishing community, indicated concern about a lack of compliance and enforcement and that penalties for noncompliance are not strong enough. A number of offences and penalties relating to recreational fishing such as using prohibited gear, not complying with fishing closures and taking fish of a prohibited size, weight and quantity have been increased.

Some new offences relate to habitat protection. There are increased penalties for interference or damage of spawning areas or removing important habitat such as snags and rocks from rivers. These provisions promote sustainable recreational fishing while protecting native wildlife, including threatened fish. There are new offences and penalties relating to acting in contravention of a licence condition or a direction. A range of updated offences and associated penalties relate to commercial fishing. These include the commercial sale of fish without a licence and taking possession or trafficking of priority species—rock lobster and abalone—without a licence.

Cross-border management of fisheries is important for both recreational fishing and trade. Offences and penalties throughout the Fisheries Act are amended to align with other jurisdictions, in particular New South Wales, where appropriate to the ACT’s circumstances. Changes also provide for the appointment of fisheries officers under the Fisheries Act, which could allow for officers from other jurisdictions to be appointed to assist with cross-border commercial trade.

The bill introduces important changes to the Nature Conservation Act that will facilitate cultural resource use by Aboriginal people. Provisions will enable the conservator to develop a statutory plan and guidelines, in partnership with the traditional custodians, that will allow for Aboriginal cultural activity, particularly in reserves. The plan can include provisions for access to fishing areas and for the collection of traditional materials such as reeds for basket making. Activities carried out under the plan do not require either a fisheries licence or a nature conservation

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