Harvesting of species
The impact of harvesting is considered a potential threat to 30 per cent of listed threatened species across a wide range of taxa. The collecting of terrestrial plant species is considered a threat to 14 listed cycad species, 13 fern species and 176 other plant species, including 29 critically endangered orchids. In Tasmania, harvesting of terrestrial plant species or products, such as seeds, wildflowers and tree ferns, is regulated under state-based management plans; export is approved under the EPBC Act. The Department of Parks and Wildlife in Western Australia manages wildflower and seed harvesting in accordance with a management plan that is approved under the EPBC Act. Seed collection of forest species is also important in other states and territories, for use in native forest regeneration, plantation establishment, propagation of nursery stock and landcare plantings. Collection is regulated and reported by relevant public authorities. Illegal harvesting of some species of terrestrial plants is a concern—for example, for tree ferns and orchids.
Indirect harvesting (including activities such as timber logging) is identified as a significant pressure for many Australian species, including listed threatened species. For example, 4 threatened mammals and 3 near threatened mammals have timber harvesting identified as a pressure in The action plan for Australian mammals 2012 (Woinarski et al. 2014). Similarly, current commercial logging practices in Victoria’s wet forests are considered one of the major pressures on the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri), leading to concerns about its population viability in the wild (Lindenmayer et al. 2015). Timber harvesting is also identified as a significant pressure for a small number of hollow-nesting species, particularly those that require large hollows in which to breed, such as the masked owl in Tasmania (Tyto novaehollandiae) and the barking owl in southern Australia (Ninox connivens).
Harvesting of native birds continues under both traditional and nontraditional activities in northern Australia. Harvesting of emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), Australian bustard (Ardeotis australis) and magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata), among others, occurs in northern Australia. One of the largest harvests of native birds occurs in Tasmania where short-tailed shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris) are taken as part of traditional Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural practice, as well as by commercial and recreational harvesters. The harvest is managed by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.
Duck and quail hunting is an ongoing activity in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, with hunting seasons in each of these states typically running from late autumn to winter. Only common species are declared as ‘game’ and can be hunted. There are strict bag limits and restrictions on locations where hunting is permissible, aimed at ensuring sustainability of the harvest. Although it appears that hunting is having no adverse impact on game bird populations, there is ongoing concern that hunting may adversely affect other species, including threatened species, during times of stress. For example, in Victoria, the total wetland area index was the lowest on record in 2015, with water storages at low levels. The ongoing decline and fragmentation of wetlands, combined with multiple pressures including hunting activities, place some species at an increased risk—for example, one of Australia’s rarest waterbirds, the freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa).
Although the hunting and harvesting of native animals is subject to laws in all jurisdictions, monitoring of compliance with regulations for harvesting of species is variable across Australia. For instance, the growth in the Indigenous estate (often in remote and hard-to-access parts of Australia) has not been matched by an increase in management resources.
Harvesting for meat and skin products is largely restricted to species that are considered common (kangaroos and wallabies), and, in most cases, requires a permit. Commercial export of product is undertaken under state and territory management plans approved under the EPBC Act. An approved wildlife trade operation under the EPBC Act allows the export of fur products sourced from wallabies that are harvested for meat in the domestic market.
The depletion of some fish stocks and the question of ecological sustainability of some of Australia’s fisheries present an ongoing need for increased management to conserve biodiversity. By way of management, the EPBC Act requires an independent assessment of the environmental performance of all Commonwealth fisheries, and all fisheries from which product is exported. Further information on impacts of recreational fishing, and take for the aquarium trade and commercial fisheries is presented in the Marine environment report.