Humane Society International v Minister for the Environment and Heritage

April 2006

EDO NSW represented The Humane Society International Inc (HSI) in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in a case challenging a decision of the Minister for Environment and Heritage.

HSI sought merits review of the decision to declare fishing operations in the Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) Fishery to be an approved wildlife trade operation (WTO) pursuant to s 303FN of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The SBT is a highly endangered species, whose numbers have been severely depleted due to overfishing. The approval of the Minister will see fishing and export levels remain unchanged.

HSI challenged the Minister's decision on the basis that certain preconditions, including that the operation of the fishery would not be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of the SBT, could not be satisfied.

One of the central bases of HSI's challenge was that the Minister did not provide for quota reductions as a condition of approval. This is despite recent advice from the international Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna that the overall catch for the SBT should immediately be reduced by 30% in 2006 or by 50% in 2007.

Southern bluefin tuna is considered severely overfished and the Minister's Threatened Species Scientific Committee has advised him that it meets the criteria for protection as an endangered species.

The Tribunal found that the approval of the SBT fishery would not be detrimental to the survival and conservation of the species and upheld the decision of the Minister to approve the SBT fishery as a WTO.

Whilst HSI was bitterly disappointed about the decision, it decided not to appeal and to pursue the campaign to protect this species through other means.

EDO NSW is grateful to Mr Patrick Larkin for his assistance with this matter.

Decision AATA