5. Legislative reporting Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Case Study – Exotic fish in man’s luggage

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Case Study – Exotic fish in man’s luggage

Where products made from CITES-listed species are imported into Australia without the required permits, the products are considered to have entered the country illegally. These products can be seized on the Department’s behalf by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Commonly seized products include decorations made from ivory and traditional medicines made from parts of endangered animals, such as rhino horns.

In 2015, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection detected 20 plastic bags containing 176 live exotic aquarium fish concealed in a Singaporean man’s luggage on his arrival at Adelaide Airport from Singapore. The Singaporean national and an Australian national, who was the intended recipient, were convicted of illegally importing the exotic fish. Both men were sentenced to two years and seven months imprisonment.

In 2015–16, Australia issued 1400 permits for the import of wildlife. Of these, 1381 were for CITES listed wildlife, 11 for non-CITES-listed live animals and eight for testing. The testing permits were issued for importing insects for trials of biological controls of invasive species. Species most often covered by import permits include alligators, crocodiles, caimans, monitors and pythons. All permits for these species were associated with the fashion industry, including items such as handbags, shoes, watchstraps and belts. The top 10 species covered by wildlife import permits account for 69 per cent of all such permits issued (see Appendix A, Table 5.15).

Live imports

The live import list comprises species and specimens that may be imported live into Australia. A person cannot legally import live specimens of a species that is not listed on the live import list, even if it has previously been imported or is already known to be in Australia. Anyone can apply to the Minister to amend the live import list to include a new species.

The applicant must provide a report that assesses the risks the species may pose to the Australian environment. Each species proposed for inclusion on the live import list is the subject of a detailed assessment, including public consultation. In 2015–16, the Minister approved two additions to the live import list:

  • a microwasp (Tachardiaephagus somervillei), included under Part 2 of the list as a biocontrol agent for yellow crazy ants on Christmas Island only

  • a cochineal insect (Dactylopius tormentosus), included under Part 1 of the list as a biocontrol agent for chain fruit cholla (an invasive cactus).

The Minister refused two proposed additions to the list:

  • Asian arowana (Scleropages formosus)

  • Myanmar arowana (Scleropages inscriptus).

The Department is assessing four further applications received during the year for amendments to the live import list.
Exports of wildlife products

The EPBC Act requires wildlife harvesting for export to be ecologically sustainable and, for live animals, to meet welfare requirements. Commercial exports of items containing native species must be sourced from a program that demonstrates the ecological sustainability of the harvest. Aside from commercial fisheries, over 100 such programs are currently approved under the EPBC Act for native species including plants, saltwater crocodiles, kangaroos, possums and some invertebrates.

Exports of regulated native species and CITES-listed species usually require a permit under Part 13A of the EPBC Act. In 2015–16, Australia issued 711 permits for the export of wildlife. Of these, 405 permits were issued for the export of CITES-listed wildlife, 214 for native species (non CITES listed wildlife) and 92 for other regulated wildlife exports. In addition, 12,537 personal baggage permits were issued for the export of personal items containing regulated wildlife products.

Species most often covered by wildlife export permits include crocodiles, alligators, corals, kangaroos, pythons, elephants and blackbuck (see Appendix A, Table 5.16). Exports of crocodile, alligator and python products are generally associated with fashion items such as handbags, shoes, watchstraps and belts. Corals were usually exported live in the aquarium trade, kangaroos generally as meat and skins and elephant products generally as antique ivory items. Blackbuck items are exported as hunting trophies. As individual export permits often cover multiple species and the total number of different species exported is high, the top 10 species covered by export permits accounted for only 16 per cent of all wildlife export
permits issued.

Fisheries assessment and approvals

Under the EPBC Act the Department assesses Australian fisheries to ensure they are managed in an ecologically sustainable way and to identify areas for improvement. Of the 43 fisheries we assessed in 2015–16, three were Commonwealth managed, 36 were state managed and four were smaller scale operations. Eleven fisheries were approved as wildlife trade operations and 32 were exempted from the export provisions of the EPBC Act. Of the 32 fisheries exempted, 30 received 10-year exemptions and two received five-year exemptions. See the case study 'Longer-term export approvals for low-risk fisheries' in Part 2, ‘Annual performance statements’, page 51.

The Department assessed all fisheries consistent with statutory requirements (see Appendix A, Table 5.17). Following these assessments, we imposed conditions and/or recommendations intended to maintain or improve the ecologically sustainable management of the fisheries in the short to medium term. We published the conditions and recommendations for fisheries in detailed reports on our website.


Meeting statutory time frames under section 518 of the EPBC Act

Section 518 of the EPBC Act provides for reporting of non-compliance with time limits imposed under the EPBC Act. In 2015–16 we made 66 per cent of the 1389 referral, assessment and approval decisions under the EPBC Act within the statutory time frame. Further information on statutory time frames for referral, assessment and approval is in Table 5.18 in Appendix A.

In 2015–16, we made 99 per cent of the 2073 decisions under other provisions of the EPBC Act within the statutory time frame. Information on decisions that did not meet statutory time frames and the reason for the delay is provided in Table 5.19 in Appendix A.

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