Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2008
Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)
The department is responsible for developing and implementing Australian Government initiatives and programs to protect and conserve Australia’s coasts and oceans to ensure ecological sustainability.
The department is also responsible for progressing the Australian Government’s whale and dolphin conservation and protection policies through international fora, such as the International Whaling Commission.
The department’s work covers a wide range of activities in the marine and coastal environments.
Marine and Biodiversity Division and Natural Resource Management Programs Division
- The department made significant progress on whale conservation with the implementation of new measures including: a sea and air monitoring program of the Southern Ocean whaling fleet; $1 million funding boost to the Australian Marine Mammal Centre which leads Australian whale research; and the release of the Global Cetaceans Snapshot report, with scientific and economic evidence supporting the case for whale conservation. A new reform agenda has been proposed for the International Whaling Commission with the tabling at International Whaling Commission meetings in March and June 2008 of proposals in the key policy paper – Whale Conservation and Management: A Future for the IWC, and the strong international support for Australia’s calls for conservation management plans for vulnerable whale populations and non-lethal whale research partnerships, which will demonstrate the archaic nature of ‘scientific whaling’.
- Development of the first 10 year Management Plan for the world’s first temperate, deep-sea network of marine reserves – the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network – has commenced. The Network covers the Commonwealth waters around Tasmania, Victoria, eastern South Australia and southern New South Wales.
- A Profile of the South-west Marine Region was released, the first substantial contribution from Australia’s world-leading program of Marine Bioregional Planning. Profiles were significantly advanced and will soon to be released for three other Australian marine regions, followed by draft marine bioregional plans containing proposals for new regional networks of marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters.
- The Coastcare component of the Natural Heritage Trust successfully delivered coastal catchment investments to communities to support water quality outcomes in 2007–08.
- Progress the roll-out of the Marine Bioregional Planning program and Marine Bioregional Profiles covering Commonwealth waters and establish an effective management regime for the Marine Protected Areas.
- Implement the government’s anti-whaling policy agenda.
- Assess the environmental performance of fisheries with products that are exported, or Commonwealth-managed fisheries under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
- Progress the implementation of the Framework for a National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management, a revised and updated Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and the new Reef Rescue Plan.
- Help protect migratory and threatened marine species.
- Deliver coastal conservation investments to communities.
- Finalise delivery of the Coastcare element under the Natural Heritage Trust, which ceased on 30 June 2008.
- Fulfill international and regional obligations, including those under: the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species; Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; the Convention on Biological Diversity; Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation; Arafura and Timor Seas Expert Forum; and a number of bilateral migratory bird agreements.
Migratory bird: the Wandering albatross
Photo: Michael Double
- South-west Bioregional Profile released in October 2007, North Bioregional Profile completed and remaining profiles are on schedule for release. Interim publications from all regional profiles have been released and are being incorporated into the department’s databases used to support decision-making.
- A key policy paper Whale conservation and Management: A Future for the IWC, tabled at the International Whaling Commission intersessional meeting in London in March 2008 and two papers at the Commission meeting Chile in June 2008.
- Organisation and funding of the sixth annual Large Whale Disentanglement Workshop in Perth in April 2008.
- Completion of reassessments of seven Commonwealth-managed fisheries and 27 state-managed fisheries.
- Publication of a revised version of the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries in August 2007.
- The Coastal Catchment Initiative of the Natural Heritage Trust program, successfully progressed the development of community based water quality improvement plans in the Great Barrier Reef Region in 2007–08.
- Approval of 1,784 grants totalling $204.615 million, as at 30 June 2008, under the Great Barrier Reef Structural Adjustment Package.
- Implementation of a Wildlife Conservation Plan for migratory shorebirds.
- Identification of key wetlands for migratory birds in Australia.
- Launch of a national shorebird population monitoring program, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund Australia and Birds Australia.
- New migratory bird conservation agreement with the Republic of Korea came into force in July 2007.
- Launch of a publicly accessible internet portal for the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme.
- Green sawfish listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in March 2007.
- During 2007–08 the Australian Government Envirofund (a component of the Natural Heritage Trust) held a round of funding targeting coastal and marine areas. There were 203 projects approved, worth $4.8 million.
- Special purpose vessel commissioned to protect Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve.
- Development of National Control Plans for six species of established marine pests – Asterias amurensis (Northern Pacific seastar), Carcinus maenas (European green crab), Musculista senhousia (Asian date mussel), Sabella spallanzanii (European fan worm), Undaria pinnatifida (Japanese seaweed); and Varicorbula gibba (European clam).
- Legislative amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 took effect on 1 July 2007, enhancing transparency and accountability in management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. A second tranche of legislative changes was introduced into Parliament in June 2008. The changes will put in place a modern regulatory framework for the Great Barrier Reef, providing capacity to more effectively administer and enforce the Marine Park zoning plan and other requirements.
A strong strategic framework underpins the department’s programs to protect and conserve Australia’s coasts and oceans.
Dugongs at Gascoyne Region, Shark Bay, Western Australia
Photo: Lochman Transparencies
The department is developing marine bioregional plans under section 176 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Plans will include detailed proposals for the establishment of new networks of marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters, as part of the Commonwealth’s contribution to the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. The department has been allocated $37.5 million over four years (2006–2010) to develop these marine bioregional plans. Four marine regions are at various stages in the marine bioregional planning process – the South-west, North-west, North and East.
In the area of coastal zone management, the Framework for a National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management is a national agreement between Australian, state and territory governments that was established to help governments deal with coastal zone problems in an integrated way. A five-year implementation plan for the framework was agreed in May 2006 and has been followed through in 2006–07 and 2007–08.
The National Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities was released in October 2006. It highlights key initiatives addressing land-based sources of marine pollution at national, state and local levels, such as the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and the Coastal Catchments Initiative. The National Program translates the Global Plan of Action to the national level.
The Coastal Catchments Initiative aimed to protect and improve water quality in coastal hotspots where water quality is threatened by land-based pollution, including urban and agricultural sources. It did this by preparing water quality improvement plans for coastal hotspots and funding of support projects.
As part of the Reef Rescue Plan, the Australian Government will invest $200 million over five years to increase the resistance of the Great Barrier Reef to climate change by improving the quality of water entering the reef lagoon. This will be achieved by applying improved land management practices to reduce the run-off of pollutants from agricultural land in the reef catchment.
In the area of marine pest management, the Australian Government is working with state and territory governments to establish a National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions. The National System has three major components: preventing new populations of marine pests establishing in Australia; a coordinated emergency response to new incursions and translocations; and the ongoing control and management of existing populations of marine pests. The department contributes to all aspects of the national system, but takes a coordinating role in the ongoing control and management of existing populations.
Turtle, Western Australia
Photo: Courtesy of Australian Institute of Marine Science
The National Partnership Approach for the Sustainable Harvest of Marine Turtles and Dugongs in Australia was developed to support regional arrangements to address the sustainable harvest of turtle and dugong in northern Australia. Such regional arrangements include the implementation of the Land and Sea Country Indigenous Partnerships Program for the Great Barrier Reef and turtle and dugong community-based management plans in Torres Strait.
Australia’s leadership in the reform of the International Whaling Commission is encapsulated by the key policy paper Whale Conservation and Management: A Future for the IWC. Australia’s proposal is to modernise the Commission to focus on conservation, rather than hunting whales. The paper proposed three initiatives: major multi-country non-lethal whale research programs; conservation management plans for living whales; and reforming the Commission’s management of science to bring an end to unilateral ‘scientific’ whaling. The department developed proposals to advance the first two initiatives in papers the minister presented to the Commission’s annual meeting in Santiago in June 2008.
Coastcare has been one of the four ‘care’ elements operating under the Natural Heritage Trust since 1997 and has been responsible for protecting coastal catchments, ecosystems and the marine environment. During 2007–08 expenditure under the Coastcare component of the Natural Heritage Trust was $63.7 million on 466 projects. The Natural Heritage Trust program ended on 30 June 2008. Investments under the Coastcare component were made in the following national priority areas:
- to protect and restore significant marine, coastal and estuarine ecosystems
- to protect and restore the coastal, estuarine and marine habitats of threatened species, threatened ecological communities, and migratory shorebirds and waterbirds
- to prevent or control the introduction and spread of introduced marine pests, coastal weeds and other biological threats to biodiversity
- to establish and effectively manage a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of marine protected areas
- to improve the condition of coastal, estuarine and marine resources that underpin the sustainability of coastal, estuarine and marine-based resource industries.
Investments in coastal conservation activities from 1 July 2008 will be made under the new Caring for our Country program.
Coastcare investments were delivered in a joint arrangement between this department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Coastcare investments were delivered throughout Australia at three levels: local , regional and national. Regional investments were made through 56 natural resource management regions that cover all of Australia. The investments are made jointly with the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality in accordance with agreed regional natural resource management plans and strategies. National investments supported activities that have national outcomes, including projects undertaken by state and territory governments, industry and non-government organisations. Actions at a local level were delivered through the Australian Government Envirofund.
Coastcare investments are detailed in the annual reports of the Natural Heritage Trust and the regional program reports, available at www.nrm.gov.au/publications .
The development of the first Bioregional Profile (South-west Marine Region) under the Marine Bioregional Planning program is a significant first step in better protecting Australia’s marine regions. Profiles for the other Bioregions are expected to be released in early 2008–09 for the North, East and North-west Marine Regions. The development of draft and final Plans will follow in each of these regions, and will include proposals for networks of marine protected areas. The process of developing the Profiles has already led to the release of several important publications and reports. These assist both stakeholders and the department by informing decision-making about the conservation values of Commonwealth waters.
The department played a strategic and central role in Australia’s growing international profile in marine conservation with the implementation of the government’s anti-whaling policy agenda. This included the first air and sea monitoring of the Southern Ocean whaling fleet, increased diplomatic efforts, and the presentation of a key policy paper on the future of the International Whaling Commission at the organisation’s intersessional meeting in March 2008.
The department has largely completed implementing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Structural Adjustment Package, which began in 2004 following the rezoning of the Marine Park and the increase in no-take zones from 4.5 per cent to 33.3 per cent. In all, $215.4 million has been made available to date under various elements of the package.
The department’s objectives in the areas of integrated coastal zone management, the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, fisheries assessments and marine and migratory species protection were all met in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Case study 1: Building partnerships to effectively manage the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network
Australia’s South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network (the Reserve Network) is the first temperate, deep-sea network of marine reserves in the world. When proclaimed in 2007, the Reserve Network nearly doubled the number of Commonwealth Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and added over 226,000 square kilometres to the Commonwealth MPA estate.
The sheer size and scale of the diverse values of the Reserve Network introduced an array of new challenges to the MPA management team, particularly how to achieve compliance with the rules of the Reserve Network.
To meet these challenges, the department has developed partnerships with key stakeholders within the region, to undertake a program of vessel patrols and surveillance flights, share compliance data and intelligence, and respond to any incidents within the reserves.
Active partnerships have now been formalised with: the South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Resources (PIRSA), the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Tasmania Police, the Australian Customs Service, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the South-east Region Fishing Industry Working Group.
These partnerships will assist the effective management of the Reserve Network by: reducing the duplication of functions between agencies; ensuring the effective use of public resources; minimising the regulatory impacts of reserve management on the fishing industry where possible; and improving cross-jurisdictional cooperation.
An additional, and critical, element of these arrangements is to build operational capacity across agencies, through the delivery of training, the purchase and upgrade of equipment and the effective sharing of experience and information.
To consolidate the compliance arrangements for the Reserve Network, representatives from the department and all partner agencies came together in Canberra in April 2008 to discuss compliance and enforcement issues. This valuable exchange of information will ensure that the Australian Government’s compliance program in the Reserve Network is delivered in the most efficient and effective way possible.
By successfully building and utilising these partnerships, the Australian Government is demonstrating its commitment to protecting the Reserve Network by actively promoting compliance with the rules of the Reserve Network, and enforcing the rules when breaches occur.
Case study 2: Australia leads reform push at International Whaling Commission, Santiago, Chile
Australia’s commitment to whale conservation found significant international support at the 60th annual meeting International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Santiago, Chile. The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts led Australia’s preparations for the meeting, and Australia’s delegation was led by the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts.
Humpback whale plays in front of tourists at Hervey Bay
Photo: Mark Farrell
The meeting agreed to form a working group to canvass a range of issues important to the Commission’s future, including Australia’s proposal for conservation management plans for vulnerable whale populations, the future of whale sanctuaries, how to resolve the question of ‘scientific’ whaling, and the promotion of non-lethal uses of whales, such as whale watching tourism. The working group will report to a special Commission meeting in early 2009.
While the Commission has had its successes – such as the moratorium on commercial whaling, increased scientific knowledge of whale and dolphin species and the establishment of whale sanctuaries – it faces considerable challenges. These challenges include the capacity for countries to ‘opt-out’ of collective management decisions such as the moratorium and the dramatic expansion in recent years of special permit ‘scientific whaling’.
The Australian Government tabled proposals at the meeting to build on the recommendations for significant reforms set out in Australia’s document presented to the March 2008 special meeting of the Commission, called Whale Conservation and Management: A Future for the IWC which propose:
- developing internationally-agreed conservation management plans, taking into account all whale-related issues and threats
- launching regional, non-lethal cetacean research partnerships
- reforming the management of science conducted under the auspices of the Commission and its Convention, including agreed priorities and criteria for research, and an end to unilateral ‘special permit’ scientific whaling.
Conservation management plans
Australia believes the Commission should develop conservation management plans to improve protection of whale populations. Such plans would address threats other than whaling, such as habitat degradation, by-catch and dangers associated with whale watching, and support the recovery of vulnerable cetacean populations.
Regional non-lethal cetacean research partnerships
The proper conservation and management of cetaceans is only achievable if management actions are underpinned by a rigorous scientific framework. Such a framework should: provide access to and interpretation of current scientific knowledge; provide timely scientific advice on management issues; identify key uncertainties and knowledge gaps; and prioritise research to redress these unknowns. While the Commission’s scientific Committee has successfully developed and fulfilled this role, there is a tendency for Commission members to determine their own cetacean research priorities and initiate their own research efforts.
Australia has proposed the development of regional non-lethal research partnerships to address agreed knowledge gaps identified by the Commission and to demonstrate non-lethal collaborative ways in which future research should be conducted.
A reformed approach to science
Some Commission member governments have granted permits to their nationals to kill whales for scientific purposes. Since the commencement of the moratorium on commercial whaling, more than 10,500 whales have been taken under permits granted under the ‘special permit’ provision of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
Although a majority of the Commission’s members oppose the use of this provision for unilateral commercial-scale ‘scientific whaling’ programs, this is not sufficient for the provision to be amended. At the 2008 annual meeting, Australia proposed addressing this source of tension by bringing all research under the auspices of the Commission and the direct scrutiny of the whole organisation.
|Focus of work||Performance indicator|
|Recovery of threatened marine wildlife|
|Number of recovery plans (i) being prepared and (ii) in operation||(i) Two recovery plans in preparation:
|Key threats to marine biodiversity|
|Number of threat abatement plans (i) being prepared or revised, and (ii) in operation||(i) One. The Threat Abatement Plan for marine debris has been revised. This plan is expected to be completed in 2008
(ii) One. The only marine threat abatement plan in operation is for the incidental catch (or by-catch) of seabirds during oceanic long-line fishing operations
|Of those listed key threatening processes in the oceans that require a threat abatement plan, the percentage that have threat abatement plans in operation||Marine debris is currently the only listed key threatening process that has a requirement to develop a threat abatement plan. The draft threat abatement plan is currently under review, and is expected to be completed in 2008
|Percentage of environmental recommendations implemented under the EPBC Act assessments of fisheries management||Assessments have been completed for all Commonwealth managed fisheries and state-managed fisheries requiring export approval. Recommendations for improvement in fisheries management were made through this process. Progress and adequacy of implementation of the recommendations is considered in the reassessment. Reassessments were completed for 34 fisheries in 2007–08|
|Marine protected areas|
|Area of Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones managed by the department for the Director of National Parks (DNP)||510,043 square kilometres (including Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve and Conservation Zone)
|Percentage of protected areas managed by the department for the DNP with management plans in operation||10 of 26 marine protected areas have management plans in operation (inclusive of Heard and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve). Management plans are under development for the 13 marine reserves within the newly declared South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network.
A plan is being developed for the Mermaid Reef National Nature Reserve, which is currently being managed under interim management arrangements. The Solitary Islands Marine Reserve Management Plan expired in April 2008. The department is currently reviewing the management arrangements for this Reserve jointly with the NSW Marine Parks Authority. Interim management arrangements are in place for the Reserve.
|Marine bioregional plans|
|Number of Marine Bioregional Plans and Profiles (i) being prepared or revised, and (ii) in operation||(i) Three Marine Bioregional Profiles being prepared.
(ii) One Marine Bioregional Profile in operation (South-west Marine Bioregional Profile).
|The degree to which Australia’s policy interests are advanced, (including through the International Whaling Commission)||The Australian Government continued its strong opposition to ‘scientific’ and commercial whaling, and worked closely with other pro-conservation countries to build international support for whale conservation.
From January to March 2008, the government directly monitored Japan’s whaling activities under its Antarctic ‘whale research’ program. Monitoring from the Australian Customs ship Oceanic Viking and the Australian Government’s A319 aircraft gathered first-hand data, which may be useful for challenging ‘scientific’ whaling programs.
Australia also led 30 like-minded anti-whaling countries and the European Commission in a formal protest in Tokyo against Japan’s scientific whaling program, the largest protest of its kind.
The government is reinvigorating Australia’s efforts to modernise the International Whaling Commission, which sets the rules on the conservation and protection of whales. Australia tabled a paper at a Commission meeting in London in March 2008, proposing ways in which the Commission could focus on conservation, rather than hunting whales. The paper proposed three initiatives: major multi-country non-lethal whale research programs; plans for whale conservation and management; and reforming the Commission’s management of science to bring an end to ‘scientific’ whaling. The initiatives were addressed in detail at the annual Commission meeting in late June 2008.
|Natural Heritage Trust (Coastcare)|
|Percentage of natural resource management regions with an accredited natural resource management plan||98%|
|Percentage of payments that are consistent with the terms and conditions of funding (Target: 100%)||100%|
|Number of projects funded||466|
|Price||See Resources table|
|Development of Sewerage Schemes for Boat Harbour and Sister’s Beach, Tasmania|
|Extent to which the project will achieve Government objectives||Project met government objectives|
|Number of milestones achieved compared with those specified in the contract||All milestones completed|
|Price||See Resources table|
|Estuaries and coastal waters|
|Number of water quality improvement plans and associated interim projects completed or under development||Seven water quality improvement plans at various stages of completion|
|Number of Australian Government obligations under the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Protection Plan either completed or in progress||One action for which the department has direct responsibility has been completed and nine actions are in progress|
|Output 1.3 Coasts and oceans|
|Policy Adviser Role: 95% of briefs and correspondence meet department quality control standards||-|
|Regulator Role: Percentage of payments that are consistent with the terms and conditions of funding (Target: 100%)||100%|
|Percentage of statutory timeframes triggered that are met (Target: >90%)||>90%|
|Price||See Resources table|
|Departmental outputs||Budget prices $000’s||Actual expenses $000’s|
|Sub-output: 1.3.1 Coastal strategies||913||1 049|
|Sub-output: 1.3.2 Coastal Investment||2 051||1 822|
|Sub-output: 1.3.3 Marine conservation||28 919||32 475|
(Output 1.3: Conservation of the coasts and oceans)
|31 883||35 346|
|Representative Areas Program – Structural Adjustment Package||67 813||67 813|
|Total (Administered)||67 813||67 813|
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