Review of Governance of the Translocation Evaluation Panel (TEP) and its processes

Translocations of live aquatic organisms occur for various beneficial reasons including the development of aquaculture farms; stocking waters on Crown and private lands for recreation, aquaria or preservation of species; and to facilitate scientific research.

Translocations of live aquatic organisms do have the potential to threaten the biodiversity and ecological integrity of Victoria’s freshwater, estuarine and marine systems. These impacts can potentially affect the economic benefits provided by recreational and commercial fishing and aquaculture, and the social and tourism benefits of being able to enjoy waters and foods free of pathogens and diseases.

The Victorian Translocation Evaluation Panel was established in 2003 under the requirements of the National Policy for the Translocation of Live Aquatic Organisms – Issues, Principles and Guidelines for Implementations (Bureau of Rural Sciences 1999). The TEP provides advice to the VFA on the management of risks associated with proposed translocations. It is good governance that the Panel’s operation be periodically reviewed.

A review of the TEP was contracted in 2019 to provide independent advice to the VFA on the governance of the TEP and its processes. Governance was taken to include the processes and structures used to direct and manage TEP operations and how it fits in with decision making by the Authority. It included the division of power, legal obligations and establishes mechanisms to achieve accountability among stakeholders and the public. The report provided by the independent expert to the VFA in September 2019 is provided below.

Review of the Translocation Evaluation Panel

The table below documents the Victorian Fisheries Authority’s response to the Review

Recommendation of the Review of the Translocation Evaluation Panel

VFA response to the recommendation

Existence of the Panel

“The VFA CEO should therefore give consideration to adopting the model used in other jurisdictions by replacing the Panel with a more streamlined, less formal process involving the seeking of advice regarding translocations from appropriate experts on an as-needs basis.”

After consideration of the recommendation the VFA decided to maintain the Panel.

Membership of the Panel

“To maximize the quality of the advice given to the VFA CEO, all members on the committee should therefore be experts that have strong backgrounds in evaluating risk assessments – not necessarily as people representing particular interest groups. That is, sound expertise in evaluating risk assessments should be the principle criterion used to appoint members of the Panel – not their role in representing particular groups, whether those groups are inside or outside government.”

The Authority accepts the recommendation and will seek to ensure that future appointments are experienced in undertaking the relevant risk assessments prior to appointment.

Types of expertise on the Panel

“some attention to appointing socio-economic expertise to the committee would be appropriate.”

The Authority accepts the recommendation and will seek to appoint someone with socio-economic expertise to the Panel and ensure that relevant peak representative bodies are consulted.

Procedures of the Panel

“To avoid conflicts of interest (whether real or perceived), when discussing individual applications, the Chair should require anyone who declares a conflict of interest or are in any way involved with an application/applicant to exit the meeting and not have any substantive role in its evaluation. This is standard practice for most committees.”

The Authority accepts the recommendation but notes that it is not aware of any conflict of interests not being declared to the Panel. All Panel members have specified expertise and are associated with stakeholder groups or Government.

“However, it is important to note that the Chair should also be allowed to invite any experts to comment on and present to the committee on any application, and this may include those Panel members who prepare applications. But these invitations need to be handled equitably such that non-Panel members who apply should be afforded the same opportunity”

The Terms of Reference of the Panel provide the Chair with the ability to provide applicants with the opportunity to attend and speak at a meeting as a guest and present on their application. This has been undertaken on many occasions. The application form will be amended to make this clear to all applicants.

“Because the Panel is an advisory body to the VFA CEO, it is appropriate that the VFA CEO decide which applications need to go to the Panel (or even a subset of the Panel) for evaluation using its expertise and which do not. This would require a process for a preliminary intra-department screening of applications to decide which require full evaluation by the Panel, and/or which members of the Panel need to provide advice on the matter.”

The Panel provides advice to the Authority. Not all stocking decisions require advice. For example, some applications are almost identical to a previous application about which advice has already been obtained; or where the Authority pays considerable money to get an independent expert to advise the Authority there should not be duplication of effort.

Guidelines and protocols

“The Panel therefore needs to be briefed about, and take into account, current and developing government policies on translocations when framing its advice.”

The Authority will amend the Panel’s operating procedure to ensure that where relevant the Panel members will be made aware of government policies on translocation when framing the advice.

“The current guidelines behind the committee and the protocols/policies that the committee operate under also require updating.

There are ten protocols dealing with translocation. The Authority undertakes to undertake a process of updating these protocols as required.

Resources available to administer the Panel

“Perhaps 4 days/week or even full-time would be more appropriate.”  and that “additional training may be required for staff in the position as Administrative Officer or a person be appointed to the position who has the necessary administrative skills.”

The Authority will examine appropriate resourcing and training for the Panel’s Administration Officer.


“a summary could be provided on the TEP’s website, which would include a summary of the application, the recommendations of the committee, the final decision by the department, and the reasons for each.”

The Authority accepts the recommendation subject to information privacy laws.

“A brief public consultation stage could also be inserted into this process to enable even more complete transparency and community consultation. This would have an additional benefit by providing the CEO VFA with a more complete picture of the community’s thoughts regarding each application prior to his/her final decision."

The Authority accepts the recommendation subject to information privacy laws.

“a quick summary back to the TEP from the VFA providing the decision and the reasons behind it.”

The Authority accepts the recommendation subject to information privacy laws.