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Publications archive - Annual reports


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2001-02

Environment Australia, 2002
ISSN 1441-9335

Review of performance - outcome one: environment (continued)
Coasts and Oceans

ocean and sand dunes

Conserve and sustainably manage coasts and oceans

Environment Australia implements national programmes to improve marine and coastal water quality; develop and manage marine protected areas; manage and care for coastal and marine resources; and promote ecologically sustainable development.

In 2001-02 Environment Australia worked to conserve and sustainably manage coasts and oceans through the following programmes:

Programmes that conserve and sustainably manage Australia's Coasts and Oceans

Conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia's Coasts and Oceans (Administered item, Departmental output 1.3)


To promote, support and implement conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia's coasts and oceans. The Natural Heritage Trust's Coasts and Clean Seas and Marine Environment Protection programmes, and implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, are the principal mechanisms for achieving this objective.

Marine biodiversity

To assist proponents of offshore seismic operations to meet obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act relevant to interactions with whales or other large cetaceans, Environment Australia, in consultation with industry and stakeholder groups, prepared guidelines on the application of the Act to interactions between offshore seismic operations and larger cetaceans. The guidelines were released in October 2001.

The recovery plan for the grey nurse shark was finalised and approved by the Minister. Draft recovery plans for public comment were produced for six marine turtle species, the great white shark, the blue and southern right whales.

The Marine Species Protection Programme provided $1.8 million to 55 projects to support management activities that help protect marine species at risk including cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), turtles, dugongs, sharks, seals and seahorses. Projects will reduce the incidental deaths of marine species, reduce or manage the effects of disturbance on marine species, and reduce adverse environmental impact on the key habitats of marine or marine dependent species.

Internationally, Environment Australia developed and submitted proposals to list eight species, including six great whales, on the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, and the Patagonian toothfish on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Australia has encouraged and provided technical (non-financial) assistance to South Pacific island states to declare their respective waters as whale sanctuaries.

Marine protected areas

Environment Australia currently manages 12 Commonwealth marine reserves. All reserves have operational management plans which protect the values of each area.

At 30 June 2002 there were no conservation zones declared under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

An emphasis on the development of management plans resulted in a more effective and consistent management of the Commonwealth marine protected area estate. During 2001- 02 work commenced on establishing improved compliance and enforcement arrangements based on a risk assessment framework for each marine protected area.

A performance assessment framework for the Coral Sea reserves was finalised and will be used as a basis for a similar system for each marine reserve. Under the framework, performance of each reserve against key management objectives will be measured to provide information on the ongoing maintenance of the values of the reserves and directions to changes in future management actions.

The Marine Protected Areas Programme managed 17 projects in state jurisdictions to the value of $670 000 to support the declaration of marine protected areas and the establishment of a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas.

Environment Australia, in cooperation with the CSIRO, began conservation assessments of 11 marine areas in 2001-02. The conservation assessments will provide valuable information to the Government in considering the suitability of the 11 key areas as new marine protected reserves. Each assessment will identify the conservation values of the area; the threatening processes impacting on these values; and issues for consideration in any potential reserve design.

In response to the Government's commitment to extensive consultation during these processes Environment Australia established a Commonwealth Stakeholder Reference Group made up of key stakeholders to provide advice on the processes for these conservation assessments and wider marine protected areas issues.

Fisheries assessments

In response to ongoing concerns about the environmental impacts of fishing and the risk of over-exploitation of marine resources the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act requires assessment of the environmental performance of fishery management arrangements to ensure they are managed in an ecologically sustainable way. All fisheries with an export component, including state-managed fisheries, are required to undergo assessment before 1 December 2003. Commonwealth-managed fisheries are required to initiate strategic assessments by July 2005, with two-thirds to be initiated by July 2003.

Four fisheries, the Heard Island and McDonald Islands fishery (a Commonwealth fishery), the Tasmanian rock lobster fishery, the Tasmanian abalone fishery and the Queensland spanner crab fishery (state-managed export fisheries) have been assessed and declared with certain agreed adjustments to be managed in an ecologically sustainable way.

The assessments looked at impacts on target species and broader impacts on the whole ecosystem. Product from these fisheries is to be included on the list of exempt native species and will be able to be exported exempt from export controls for five years. Assessments commenced on nine other Commonwealth fisheries and 19 state-managed fisheries.

The assessment process has identified substantial gains for all parties - management arrangements will increasingly be designed with environmental consequences in mind; community confidence in fisheries will increase; and importantly there will be greater certainty for the fishing industry and its long-term future.

The assessments, particularly for the crab and abalone fisheries, highlighted the value to industry of management arrangements that are capable of adjusting quickly to environmental concerns, including avoiding overfishing of stocks.

Bycatch is a major issue facing the Australian fishing industry. Environment Australia supported a network of SeaNet officers to work with fishers to facilitate the implementation of effective, practical and cost-effective bycatch minimisation actions. SeaNet aims to provide easy access to information and advice about environmental best practice in commercial fisheries. It represents a significant partnership between commercial fishers, industry, research organisations and conservation groups.

International Oceans Policy

Australia continues to lead international efforts to improve understanding and management of the unique biodiversity of the high seas. Current global frameworks for managing and conserving high seas biodiversity are limited in their effectiveness. Australia has displayed strong leadership in a range of international forums to raise awareness of the issue, and to commence a process of considering and developing future frameworks to protect and manage this biodiversity.

Australia has been a key participant in the development of an oceans theme for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in August 2002. With the cooperation and assistance of other nations, Australia's efforts have ensured that the topic of sustainable management and conservation of oceans and coasts would be prominently featured at the summit. The summit provides Australia with the opportunity to join other nations in partnership agreements to progress specific projects to improve the use and conservation of oceans and coasts globally, regionally and locally.

Australia is the Lead Shepherd of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Marine Resource Conservation Working Group, which is focusing particularly on better integration and coordination of ocean issues with APEC members. To this end, Australia hosted three international meetings in June 2002 - the Australia-Canada Oceans Research Network, the APEC Integrated Oceans Management Forum 2, and the Marine Resource Conservation Working Group Annual Meeting.

Moorings in Sensitive Marine Areas

The National Moorings Programme has funded a total of 16 projects to a total value of $1.65 million to support the installation of more than 320 public moorings. The moorings will protect sensitive marine areas from the impact of anchor damage in popular marine and coastal areas. These moorings are providing positive assistance to help the boating community conserve Australia's unique underwater environments.

Introduced Marine Pests

The Introduced Marine Pests Programme and the Ballast Water Remediation Programme funded projects to improve Australia's capacity to identify actual and potential introduced marine pests, prevent their introduction, and respond to future incursions and pests already in Australia.

The two programmes funded 19 projects in 2001-02, including continuing projects from 2000-01, to the value of $2.6 million.

Projects completed during the year included a national on-line database of introduced marine pests and treatment options, and guidance for small vessel operators and mussel farmers on preventing the translocation of marine pests. A CSIRO project developed a potential marine pest list based on a risk assessment process. The outcomes of the project will assist Environment Australia, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia and state and territory agencies in planning for, and being alerted to, species that pose, or might pose, a threat to Australia's coasts and oceans.

The APEC Marine Resource Conservation Working Group meeting held in Hobart in November 2001 was partly funded by the Introduced Marine Pests Programme. The workshop established a beginning for an APEC management framework for introduced marine pests.

Environment Australia represented Australia at a meeting of the International Maritime Organisation's Marine Environment Protection Committee pursuing the further development of the draft International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments scheduled for completion at the end of 2003. Environment Australia also represented Australia at the Diplomatic Conference to Adopt the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems for Ships in October 2001.

The Antifouling Programme supports actions that will lead to better approaches to antifouling practices; increased use of Tributyltin (TBT) free antifouling paints on all Australian shipping vessels; and the International Maritime Organisation's ban on the use of TBT antifouling paints.

The Antifouling Programme continued to fund (to the value of $305 000) the cooperative government-industry project to test the efficiency of new antifouling paint on Australian ships under operational conditions. It also established four new projects valued at $320 000 to evaluate the ecological toxicity of alternative antifouling paint on representative Australian marine organisms including corals.


Through Coastcare, communities are encouraged to take stewardship of their local coastal areas. The Coastcare Programme supports and encourages the establishment of partnerships between all levels of government and the community, and strongly promotes private sector involvement. In 2001-02 there were 314 community projects carried out nationally to the value of $4.3 million to encourage volunteer, government agency and private sector participation in coastal and marine environmental management and protection.

Coastal and Estuarine Policy

A memorandum of understanding between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments to protect the Great Barrier Reef from land-sourced pollutants was agreed on 23 June 2002. Environment Australia has commenced negotiations to develop a Reef Water Quality Protection Plan consistent with requirements under the memorandum of understanding. The memorandum of understanding also outlines a number of 'no regret' actions that governments will undertake in the short term to address the quality of water entering the reef. The Government has committed an initial $1 million from the extension of the Natural Heritage Trust to these activities.

The Framework for Marine and Estuarine Water Quality Protection was developed to implement the National Water Quality Management Strategy. The framework identifies and sets out measures to protect, the environmental values of water through attainment of both water quality and river flow objectives. Environment Australia is negotiating with relevant jurisdictions for the development of water quality improvement plans on several coastal areas. The framework and implementation of water quality improvement plans will give effect to the Government's commitment to 'seek binding agreements with jurisdictions to measurably reduce the discharge of pollution to coastal and urban water quality hotspots'.

Wastewater and Stormwater Management

Under the local component of the Clean Seas Programme, 59 projects addressing wastewater pollution entering coastal, marine and estuarine environments were approved with funding of $6 million across Australia. The projects target stormwater and sewage wastewaters as well as capacity building and coastal monitoring.

The Clean Seas Programme Commonwealth component funded one project to the value of $8.45 million. The project will provide economic and social benefits together with an environmental return. It will prevent 30 tonnes of nitrogen and 8.4 tonnes of phosphorus being discharged to the Derwent River, Hobart, annually. The Cleaning Our Waterways Industry Partnership Programme funded six projects to the value of $1.9 million. This programme collaborates with industry to undertake on-ground works that improve urban coastal waterways' quality, amenity and health by reducing pollution from industrial sources.

An independent review by ARTD Management and Research Consultants of national water quality protection programmes including Clean Seas (Commonwealth component), the Urban Stormwater Initiative and Cleaning Our Waterways Industry Partnership Programme found that 66 per cent of all funded projects had innovative features associated with them (with the remainder representing best management practices). The review estimated that 24 per cent of projects utilised new technologies and 35 per cent exhibited new applications for established technologies.

Marine Waste at Ports, Marinas and Boat Harbours

Working in cooperation with local, state and territory government agencies and industry, the Marine Waste Reception Facilities Programme aims to minimise pollution of the marine environment from ships and boats. Through the programme 46 projects were managed to the value of $2.2 million to improve waste management at ports, marinas and slipways.

Land-based Pollution

Australia played an active role at the first Intergovernmental Review of the Global Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, in November 2001. An Australian display demonstrated a wide range of domestic initiatives that have made significant progress towards reducing land-based pollution of the marine environment. Australia was also proactive in developing, along with other governments, future directions for cooperative international action on the Global Plan of Action.

Sea Dumping

The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 is administered to ensure that Australia meets its international obligations under the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972 (London Convention). Environment Australia worked with the ports industry and other government agencies to ensure that wastes permitted to be disposed of at sea (such as dredge spoils, seized vessels and burials at sea) were disposed of in accordance with the Sea Dumping Act and sound environmental management principles. Nineteen permits were granted in 2001-02.

Environment Australia represented Australia at the 23rd Consultative Meeting, and the 25th Scientific Group Meeting, of the contracting parties to the London Convention. A key outcome of the meetings was the finalisation of guidance on waste assessment of dredged material.

Acid Sulfate Soils

The Coastal Acid Sulfate Soils Programme approved five projects to the value of $838 608 to assist improving water quality through the better management of exposed coastal acid sulfate soils. In total, 16 projects that trial remediation treatments for acid sulfate soil problems were managed. Projects demonstrate a range of remediation techniques at sites displaying a variety of characteristics and climate conditions and will improve water quality in coastal acid sulfate soil 'hot spots'. Project outcomes will result in reduced acid discharge to coastal waters and provide positive assistance to farmers, tourism, aquaculture and fishing industry operators.

Implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

The Marine and Water Division of Environment Australia exceeded its requirements under the service-level agreement with the Approvals and Legislation Division on the implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act with regard to the timely assessment of referrals and assessment documents provided by proponents.

Review of Programme Delivery

Applications under the Living Cities programme were assessed by an advisory panel that reviews technical aspects of each project. In an independent review of national water quality programmes, ARTD Management and Research Consultants found that the programmes had effective processes for selection. Interviews with a selection of project proponents revealed that they were very positive about the application and assessment process.

Applications under the Australia's Oceans Policy initiative were assessed by a committee comprising Environment Australia, relevant state and Northern Territory agencies and the CSIRO.

Applications under the Coasts and Clean Seas Initiative were sought through public calls and are assessed by state assessment panels. Members of panels are selected for their expertise relevant to the programmes being assessed and are drawn from the community, local government and state agencies. Panels have a majority of community and local government members combined, and have an independent chair. The panel provides advice and recommendations to the state and territory ministers who provide a list of recommended projects to the Natural Heritage Trust Ministerial Board for the board's approval.

Community Involvement in Programme Delivery

An important outcome of the Natural Heritage Trust has been the direct and indirect involvement of community groups and members of the public in Coasts and Clean Seas and related activities. In 2001-02 1500 groups and 60 000 individuals were involved in Coasts and Clean Seas related activities.

The Marine and Coastal Community Network, funded for $848 000 under the Coasts and Clean Seas initiative, involved 9234 people, either as individuals, groups or through agencies, in its activities.