Publications archive

Department of the Environment and Heritage annual report 2005–06

Volume one
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006
ISSN 1441 9335

Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)

Coasts and oceans

The Department of the Environment and Heritage develops Australian Government initiatives to protect and conserve Australia’s coasts and oceans and to ensure their management is ecologically sustainable.

Main responsibilities for this output

Land, Water and Coasts Division

Approvals and Wildlife Division

Natural Resource Management Programmes Division

Marine Division


Coastal strategies

Coastal investments

Marine conservation

Results 2005–06

Coastal strategies

The department is working with all levels of government to address nationally important coastal issues.

Integrated coastal zone management

The Framework for a National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management is a national agreement between federal, state and territory governments on how to deal with coastal problems in an integrated way. This 10-year national framework aims to protect the coastal environment and safeguard coastal industries and communities.

In May 2006 all jurisdictions agreed to the Implementation Plan for a National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management. The Minister for the Environment and Heritage launched the plan on 23 May 2006 as part of the national Coast to Coast 2006 conference. To access the framework and implementation plan online, go to

Population and planning

Development pressure is a major issue confronting sustainable management of the coastal zone. Intensified use of and demand for coastal resources can lead to the loss of coastal habitats, which in turn can lead to declining water quality, loss of biodiversity and less viable coastal industries.

The department is working with other governments to gather information about demographic trends along the coast to help manage the environmental implications of rapid population growth. In April 2006 the department sponsored the first National Sea Change Conference to support the work of local government in managing population growth and tourism on the coast.

Climate change

The Climate Change Risk and Vulnerability Report by the Australian Greenhouse Office predicts that increasing temperature and rising sea levels are two of the biggest threats to Australia’s coastal zone. These predictions may have serious consequences for the Great Barrier Reef and other coastal areas within the next 50 years.

The department is working with all jurisdictions to develop a national assessment of the vulnerability of Australia’s coast to the impacts of climate change (see: Australian Climate Change Science Programme).

The report can be accessed at

Acid sulfate soils

Acid sulfate soils occur naturally in both coastal and inland Australia. When left undisturbed, these soils are harmless. But when excavated or drained for development, the sulfides in the soil react with oxygen in the air, and form sulfuric acid. This acid can kill plants and animals. It damages buildings and infrastructure and can contaminate drinking water and food such as oysters. It is a major environmental issue for land and water degradation.

This year the department worked with some of Australia’s top soil scientists to produce the National Atlas of Acid Sulfate Soils. The atlas contains a map and web-based database of the distribution of acid sulfate soils in Australia. It is an important tool for resource managers to show where to avoid development, and where the soil will need special treatment to prevent damage to the environment.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage launched the atlas on 21 April 2006. To look at the mapping and web-based tools go to

Coastal water quality and wetlands protection

The Framework for Marine and Estuarine Water Quality Protection aims to protect marine and estuarine water from the effects of pollution from the land. The two main sources of this pollution are agriculture and urban development, which result in nutrients and sediment being washed into the sea.

The framework addresses the sources of coastal pollution through three linked programmes:

The department manages these programmes, which fund state agencies, regional bodies and local authorities to help them tackle water quality issues including through the preparation of water quality improvement plans.

Coastal Catchments Initiative—hotspots

Coastal Catchments Initiative—hotspots
Coastal Catchments Initiative

The Coastal Catchments Initiative aims to protect and improve water quality in coastal hotspots where water quality is threatened by land-based pollution, including urban and agricultural sources (see map above).

The Australian Government provided $6.211 million from the Natural Heritage Trust to fund the Coastal Catchments Initiative during 2005–2006. This year the department used part of this funding to initiate water quality improvement plans and related interim projects in four hotspots.

The current status of water quality improvement plans and the amount spent on plans and interim projects in 2005–06 are shown in the table below.

A priority for the Australian Government is to protect the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland’s coastal wetlands from pollution in runoff water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. This year work started on four water quality improvement plans for the catchments of the Great Barrier Reef. These include plans for the Tully, Burdekin and Burnett catchments and the catchments in the Mackay–Whitsunday region. These plans will also contribute to the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.

The current status of water quality improvement plans
Hotspot Progress Expected completion $ spent
Mossman and Daintree catchments, Great Barrier Reef Public consultation completed. Final draft prepared Mid 2006 0
Derwent Estuary, Tasmania Public consultation draft plan prepared Mid-late 2006 27 273
Peel Inlet and Harvey Estuary, Western Australia Public consultation draft in preparation Late 2006 139 091
Adelaide’s Port Waterways (Barker Inlet and Port River) Public consultation draft in preparation Late 2006 80 109
Moreton Bay, Queensland Planning under way Mid 2007 415 000
Port Phillip Bay and Western Port, Victoria Planning under way Mid 2008 212 500
Myall and Wallis Lakes, New South Wales Planning under way Mid 2008 301 818
Swan–Canning Estuary, Western Australia Initiated Mid 2009 1 149 200
Vasse–Wonnerup Estuary/Geographe Bay, Western Australia Initiated Mid 2009 100 000
Darwin Harbour Initiated Mid 2009 425 000
Great Barrier Reef Coastal Catchments (including Tully, Townsville, Burdekin, Burnett and Mackay–Whitsunday) Planning under way Mid 2008 3 094 198
Reef Water Quality Protection Plan

The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan aims to halt and reverse the decline in quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef by 2013. The department shares responsibility for implementing the plan with other government agencies and the community.

The department partly funds activities under the plan from the Natural Heritage Trust and from the Queensland Wetlands Programme (see next section).

Major projects supporting the plan during 2005–06 included:

Research emphasises the importance of addressing land-based sources of sediment and nutrient run-off. This year the department funded a project to develop tools that measure the effects of riparian buffers on water quality and guidelines for riparian buffers. These tools are being adapted for landholders to use as simple water-quality tests. The department also revised guidelines to assist natural resource management bodies to include actions that contribute to meeting the objectives of the reef plan in their regional plans. The guidelines provide direction and include practical approaches to reducing the amount of sediment and nutrients reaching the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

Reef plan partners continue to work with regional natural resource management bodies on research and extension programmes to improve the sustainability of agricultural practices. A consultancy is currently looking at ways to better align natural resource management activities with the reef plan objectives. A report is due later in the year.

Queensland Wetlands Programme

The Queensland Wetlands Programme is a joint initiative of the Australian and Queensland governments to support measures that will result in long-term benefits to the sustainable use, management, conservation and protection of Queensland wetlands. The programme is funded through two sub-programmes:

This year the Natural Heritage Trust Wetlands Programme supported a number of measures, including:

The Great Barrier Reef Coastal Wetlands Protection Programme protects and restores wetlands in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area. These wetlands protect water quality in the Great Barrier Reef and have significant value as wildlife habitat.

Coastal investments

The Australian Government invests in coastal conservation activities. The investments are delivered through the Australian Government Natural Resource Management Team.


Coastcare is that part of the Natural Heritage Trust invested in protecting coastal catchments, ecosystems and the marine environment. Total expenditure under Coastcare in 2005–06 was $55 million.

A national evaluation of Natural Heritage Trust regional investment to protect coastal and marine environments was undertaken during the year to examine ways to improve the delivery of the programme. The report will be completed in late 2006.

Results of investment are reported in the annual reports of the Natural Heritage Trust and the annual regional programme reports available at

Sewerage schemes for Boat Harbour and Sisters Beaches

The department is supporting the Waratah–Wynyard Council in Tasmania to develop sewerage schemes to improve the water quality of Boat Harbour Beach and Sisters Beach waterways. Better urban planning and wastewater treatment compliance measures, including construction of sewerage and wastewater treatment infrastructure, are being done in both areas. Work funded under this programme to April 2007 will achieve a major reduction in public health risk by improving coastal water quality at Boat Harbour and Sisters Beaches.

Marine conservation

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Australia has rights and responsibilities over 14 million square kilometres of ocean. This is more than twice the area of the Australian continent. Within this area live thousands of marine species, some of which are unique to Australia and all of which contribute to making Australia a country rich in marine biodiversity.

The Australian Government uses the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to protect and manage threatened, migratory and marine species, such as whales, to assess fisheries, to establish marine protected areas and to develop bioregional plans. Threatened species are listed under the Act.

The department also works with other countries, using international treaties, agreements and conventions, to protect and conserve the marine environment.

Regional marine planning

During 2005–06 the department finalised a review of its approach to regional marine planning. Under the new approach, the government will establish regional marine plans as bioregional plans under section 176 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The plans will focus on meeting the Australian Government’s environmental protection and biodiversity conservation responsibilities in Commonwealth waters, which are waters generally between three and 200 nautical miles from the coast. This review process culminated in the marine bioregional planning process being allocated
$37.75 million over four years in the 2006–07 Budget.

Each plan will describe the region’s key habitats, species, natural processes, human uses and benefits, and threats to the long-term ecological sustainability of the region. The plans will give details about the various statutory obligations under the Act that apply in any region, and will describe the conservation measures in place, such as those relating to recovery planning for threatened species. They will provide a knowledge base to inform future decision-making in the marine environment and identify key strategic actions.

The plans will include regional networks of marine protected areas as part of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas in Commonwealth waters (see below).

South-west Marine Bioregional Plan

The South-west Marine Bioregional Plan will cover waters adjacent to South Australia and Western Australia from Kangaroo Island to the mid-west coast of Western Australia.

In 2005–06 the department invested $170 000 in collating information on the ecology of the region and how people are using its resources. The information is being used to develop a profile of the region describing its conservation, social and economic values. The profile is the first step in the marine bioregional planning process and will help to identify conservation priorities for the region.

In 2005–06 the department invested $230 000 in projects to inform the planning process, including maps locating human uses, management measures and environmental features in the region, and guidance for identifying significant ecosystem features and understanding human impacts on the environment.

Northern Marine Bioregional Plan

Marine planning has been under way for the waters between the Goulburn Islands and the Torres Strait since 2002, during which time the department has gathered a large body of information on the important ocean ecosystems of northern Australia.

During 2005–06 the department focused primarily on aligning the planning in the north to the new approach to regional marine planning. The first planning product, the Northern Marine Region Regional Profile, is well advanced.

In June 2006, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage extended the western boundary of the northern planning area to the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. This will improve planning arrangements by ensuring that Northern Territory stakeholders are involved in only one marine planning process and will also facilitate closer alignment with the Northern Territory’s marine planning.

Marine bioregional plans are also being developed for the Northwest and East Marine regions.

Torres Strait

The department helped to develop the Land and Sea Management Strategy for Torres Strait, which was published in November 2005. This strategy is a key part of the regional planning process being funded through the Natural Heritage Trust. The strategy identifies important land and sea assets, issues, information, and potential mechanisms for supporting Torres Strait communities to manage their natural resources in a sustainable way. Marine issues addressed in the strategy include shipping, water quality, ecosystem health and the conservation of marine species and habitats.

The department provided $200 000 towards the final year of the Torres Strait Co-operative Research Centre (CRC). The department had membership on the Torres Strait CRC Board and a direct interest in its research programme including tasks associated with turtle and dugong population dynamics and catch monitoring, the mapping of the Torres Strait seabed biota, seagrass and seabed dynamics and sustainable fisheries management.

Marine protected areas

The Department of the Environment and Heritage, on behalf of the Director of National Parks, manages an estate of marine protected areas that are Commonwealth reserves under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

During 2005–06 $3.421 million from the national component of the Natural Heritage Trust contributed to the development of new marine protected areas and the management of the existing marine protected area network.

Some management functions for existing marine protected areas were delivered by state agencies under service level agreements with the department. The management budget covered key functions such as research and monitoring, and compliance and enforcement.

Details are set out in the annual report of the Director of National Parks at

New marine protected areas

In May 2006 the Minister for the Environment and Heritage announced Australian Government agreement to a substantial addition to the national network of marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters. Thirteen new marine protected areas in the South-east Marine Region were identified, covering a total area of 226 000 square kilometres of marine environment off the coast of Tasmania, Victoria, eastern South Australia and far south New South Wales. This will be followed by the progressive development of other marine protected areas in Australia’s remaining four marine regions.

The extended network covers an area two-thirds the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The network will be the first temperate water marine protected area network in the world. It includes significant examples of key underwater features such as canyon systems and seamounts, which are biodiversity hotspots.

The new network of marine protected areas was developed in conjunction with extensive fisheries management reforms being implemented by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority as part of the Australian Government’s $220 million Securing Our Fishing Future package (see also Great Barrier Reef Structural Adjustment Package).

Candidate marine protected areas

Candidate marine protected areas

Migratory and threatened marine species protection

The department is working to prevent threatened marine species from becoming extinct and to recover their populations. As part of this work the department develops recovery plans setting out the actions needed to maximise the chances of long-term survival of threatened species in the wild.

The main avenue for increasing the protection and conservation of migratory species is the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS or the Bonn Convention). The department has led global and regional efforts to protect migratory marine species through the development and implementation of regional arrangements such as the Indian Ocean–South-East Asia Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding.

Recovery plans for listed threatened marine species

Recovery plans must come into force within the time limits set out in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Recovery plans are now in place for:

A recovery plan for the Australian sea lion is under development.

Whale protection

The Australian Government has made whale and dolphin conservation and protection a priority. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 established the Australian Whale Sanctuary2 in Commonwealth waters. The Act also regulates how people should behave around whales and dolphins.

Recent data from research funded through the Natural Heritage Trust indicates that populations of two out of the five threatened species of large whales found near Australia’s coastline are increasing. While still much lower than pre-whaling numbers, the Australian populations of southern right whales and humpback whales continue to increase. Currently there are around 1 750 southern right whales and 30 000 humpback whales. The rate of increase for southern right whales is more than seven per cent per year and humpbacks, which breed at a quicker rate, are increasing at around 10–11 per cent per year. There are no current estimates for the abundance of the other three threatened species of large whales, the blue, fin and sei whales.

In 2005–06 the department developed a database to record whale and dolphin sightings and strandings. An extensive consultation process led to all states and territories and the Australian Government adopting the revised National Whale Watching Guidelines. The fourth National Large Whale Disentanglement Workshop was held to train managers on how to disentangle whales safely from fishing gear and marine debris. This year also saw implementation of a new satellite telemetry buoy that can be deployed to track an entangled whale when sea conditions prevent immediate disentanglement.

The department released a review of the conservation status of Australia’s smaller whales and dolphins. The review describes the current status of the 40 Australian cetacean species not listed as threatened, and the conservation initiatives pertaining to them. The report was prepared in response to a request by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee for a progress report to assist with the committee’s review of the eligibility of these smaller cetaceans for listing as threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Project work for whale and dolphin research and conservation activities is partly funded through the national component of the Natural Heritage Trust. During 2005–06 the department invested approximately $400 000 to improve knowledge of distribution, abundance and habitat requirements of whales and dolphins.

More information on whale protection can be found in the chapter on Antarctica.

The department developed fact sheets, posters, cards, wrist bands and a new website ( to promote whale and dolphin conservation.

Migratory shorebird protection

In February 2006 the Australian Government provided $980 000 over two years from the Natural Heritage Trust to ensure greater protection and conservation of migratory birds. Part of this funding will be used to implement the wildlife conservation plan for migratory shorebirds. This is the first wildlife conservation plan to be made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The conservation plan sets out research and management actions to help ensure the survival of 36 species of migratory shorebirds. The plan complements existing domestic protection measures for migratory shorebirds by strengthening international conservation efforts. The department established a working group of experts and government representatives to advise on implementation priorities and evaluate the performance of the plan.

Sustainable fisheries assessments

The department is responsible for assessing the environmental performance of fisheries under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. All fisheries whose products are exported, and all Australian Government managed fisheries, must be assessed.

The Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries outline how the department assesses each fishery. Following the department’s assessment the Minister for the Environment and Heritage may approve the continued operation of the fishery, including export.

In 2005–06 the department completed assessments for a total of 25 fisheries, including seven Commonwealth-managed fisheries and 18 state-managed fisheries in Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australian and South Australia. This brings the number of fisheries assessed since 2000 to 113. All fisheries assessed in 2005–06 received export approval. Another eight fisheries were allowed to continue to export products in the short term while further improvements are made to their management arrangements. The department expects to complete assessments of an additional five fisheries later in 2006.

Since 2000, when the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 came into force, the minister has declared 121 fisheries (113 full-term and eight short-term decisions) as either exempt from the export provisions of the Act for five years, or as approved wildlife trade operations for periods of up to three years. After this time has elapsed the department will reassess the fisheries.

Fisheries assessed (2000–present)

Fisheries assessed (2000–present)

Since 2000 the Australian Government has used the assessment process to drive improvements in fisheries management by identifying what additional environmental protection measures need to be put in place. As a result, fishery management agencies have agreed on a range of measures to improve their environmental performance and sustainability. Examples of these improvements include:

More information is available at

Marine pest management framework

The Australian Government and state and territory governments continued the work of recent years to establish a permanent National System for the Prevention and Management of Introduced Marine Pest Incursions. The national system is a way for government agencies to coordinate their efforts to control or eradicate new outbreaks of marine pests, including by managing ballast water and biofouling (marine pests encrusted on vessel hulls and other gear).

The Australian Government committed $6 million over four years (2004–2008) from the national component of the Natural Heritage Trust for research and development and other activities necessary to implement the national system. Project expenditure during 2005–06 was $370 000. Results in 2005–06 from projects funded by the department include:

International marine conservation

The seas and seabed beyond the national jurisdiction of individual countries—the ocean ‘commons’—contain significant biodiversity, much of it new to science, diverse, unique and fragile. The department works with other countries to promote marine biodiversity conservation, including on the high seas.

International activities for listed threatened and migratory species

The department continued to build regional and international conservation partnerships to ensure that Australia’s domestic protection measures for listed threatened and migratory species are complemented internationally.

The department is Australia’s focal point for the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, an intergovernmental convention of
92 countries to which Australia is a signatory. At the 8th conference of the parties to the convention held in Kenya in November 2005, the department helped to advance Australia’s marine species conservation agenda by successfully strengthening the convention’s role in conserving migratory marine species in Australia’s region.

Resolutions adopted at the conference included agreement to develop a global approach to conserving migratory sharks, to develop a regional approach to conserving marine turtles in the Pacific, and to list the basking shark under the convention. These new resolutions will help to conserve sharks and turtles throughout their ranges. A new regional conservation agreement for marine turtles may be in place by 2008, while a new global conservation agreement for migratory sharks is expected to be in place by 2009.

The department supports the Australian Government’s obligations under the Japan–Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (JAMBA) and the China–Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (CAMBA).

The department worked with the Ministry of the Environment in Japan and Wetlands International to co-host two successful meetings in 2005–06 of an international working group tasked to develop the World Summit on Sustainable Development Type II Partnership. The partnership will be launched in late 2006. It aims to promote cooperation among the countries across the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, and to support conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats in the flyway.

The department also made progress on the migratory bird agreement with the Republic of Korea. The department expects a formal signing ceremony will be held in late 2006.

United Nations

In February 2006 Australia and Mexico co-chaired the inaugural meeting of a United Nations working group to study the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Australia used this working group to continue its strong advocacy for a responsible global approach to the conservation of high seas biodiversity.

Regional collaboration

Australia is helping to improve the management of the oceans of the region through the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) structure. Australia promoted and supported activities to address marine debris, introduced marine pests, marine turtle conservation and illegal fishing through the Bali Plan of Action, which was endorsed at the 2nd APEC Oceans-Related Ministerial Meeting in September 2005.

Australia is also assisting regional marine conservation and management through the Arafura and Timor Seas Expert Forum. The forum is one of Australia’s major partnership initiatives coming out of the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. It facilitates cooperative research and better information sharing between governments, scientific bodies and non-government interests in Australia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste to improve the sustainable management of living marine resources in the Arafura and Timor Seas region.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park structural adjustment package

On 1 July 2004, rezoning in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park increased the area of ‘no take’ zones in the park from 4.5 per cent to 33.3 per cent. The government has since been providing assistance to businesses and individuals affected by the rezoning through a structural adjustment package. The package has an approved budget of $86.741 million, but the final amount of assistance provided is yet to be determined.

As of 30 June 2006, 1 456 grants totalling $69.30 million had been approved under the various elements of the package. The largest elements of the package comprise 122 grants for licence buy-outs totalling nearly $33 million, 116 grants for Full Business Restructuring Assistance totalling $22.98 million and 492 grants for Simplified Business Restructuring Assistance amounting to $10.54 million.

On 13 December 2005 the Minister for the Environment and Heritage extended the deadline for applications under the structural adjustment package from
31 December 2005 to 30 April 2006. On 4 April the minister extended the deadline to 31 May 2006 for applicants impacted by Cyclone Larry, and eased the information requirements for applicants who lost information due to the cyclone. On 22 February 2006 the minister announced that the government had removed the $500 000 cap on Full Business Restructuring Assistance grants. On 26 May 2006 the minister announced a 20 per cent increase in payments for approved applications for Full Business Restructuring Assistance. These grants will cover the approved full cost of restructuring a business to mitigate the impact of the rezoning of the marine park.

Marine science

Marine surveys

In 2005–06 the department, in partnership with Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO, provided $750 000 for sea time on the RV Southern Surveyor spread across four voyages. Two of the voyages in 2005 focused on mapping benthic ecosystems (that is, ecosystems at the bottom of the sea) on the deep continental shelf and slope in Australia’s south-west to understand evolution and biogeography. The voyages in this region focused on the Perth Canyon, a unique feature 22 kilometres seaward of Rottnest Island off Perth. The Perth Canyon is as wide and deep as the United States’ Grand Canyon, and during summer, blue whales feed on swarming krill in upwelling zones around its rim. The remarkable marine species recovered and sea floor images captured during these voyages will inform marine planning in south-west waters. (See map below).

The third voyage investigated benthic habitats and sedimentary processes, and the petroleum potential of the East Mentelle Basin. The fourth voyage off the North West Shelf looked at hydrocarbon seeps and the bathymetry and sedimentology of this region.

Bathymetry map of Australia’s undersea Perth Canyon

Bathymetry map of Australia's undersea Perth Canyon

Source: CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research/Geoscience Australia

Case study: Rottnest Island marine survey
A new species of stingaree. Photo: Peter Last, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research

The department, in collaboration with CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, conducted a survey of the deep waters off Western Australia’s Rottnest Island to gather information to inform the Australian Government’s programme of marine planning around Australia’s south-west waters.

The survey was conducted from the Department of Fisheries vessel RV Naturaliste, which spent a week at sea undertaking deep water trawls on the continental shelf north and south of Rottnest Island.

A new species of gurnard. Photo: Peter Last, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research

Four species taken on the survey were previously unknown to science and 10 more, which could not be positively identified, may also be new.

Fish collected during the survey were freighted to Hobart for identification and their tissues DNA bar-coded as part of the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship project. Information learned during the project will be invaluable as the Australian Government starts work on developing a marine bioregional plan for the waters of Australia’s south-west.

Ocean Biogeographic Information System

The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) is an international federation of organisations and people working to make data about marine life, from all over the world, freely available over the internet.

In December 2005 the department launched the Australian node of OBIS ( The Australian node, located at the CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research laboratories in Hobart, is a partnership between the department and CSIRO. The node hosts a database that depicts the distribution and abundance of bird and marine species in the Australian region. The data will provide a better understanding of what lies above and beneath the ocean’s surface, including what species are common or rare, where alien invasive species originate, and where biodiversity hotspots are located. The system is accessible to the public, and will encourage the sharing of marine data by academics, museums, universities and industry research bodies.

The Australian node is one of a number to be established around the world, all of which feed information to the central portal at Rutgers University in New Jersey, United States. The Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic fund based in the United States, provided $200 000 to help establish the Australian node.

Oceans Portal

This year the department, working with Australian Government marine science agencies, completed the Oceans Portal, an online marine database. The Oceans Portal allows users to pull together information from a number of participating Australian Government science and information agencies and museums, and to create a product, such as a map, drawing on this information. The Oceans Portal currently holds data from the department as well as the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Geoscience Australia, Bureau of Meteorology, the Royal Australian Navy and CSIRO. This is the first time information from such a wide range of agencies can be accessed at one location. The Oceans Portal will be available through the department’s website at

Results for performance indicators
Performance indicator 2005–06 result
Estuaries and coastal waters
Number of water quality improvement plans and associated interim projects completed or under development 4 (Great Barrier Reef Coastal Catchments Initiative)
Number of Australian Government obligations under the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Protection Plan either completed or in progress 3 (Great Barrier Reef Coastal Catchments Initiative)

10 actions for which the department has direct responsibility are either completed or in progress
Recovery of threatened marine wildlife
Number of recovery plans (i) being prepared and (ii) in operation (i) 1 recovery plan being prepared

(ii) 7 plans in operation
Percentage of listed threatened terrestrial species and ecological communities with recovery plans in operation 96%
Key threats to marine biodiversity
Number of threat abatement plans (i) being prepared or revised, and (ii) in operation (i) 2 plans being prepared or revised

(ii) 1 plan in operation (protecting seabirds from longline 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 50% have threat abatement plans in operation
(1 of 2)
Percentage of environmental recommendations implemented under the strategic assessments of fisheries management 25 fisheries assessed in 2005–06

113 fisheries assessed in total, with a further 8 fisheries having short-term decisions made on them

100% of fisheries needing to be assessed and granted export approval have completed the fishery assessment process. However, approximately 5% of these are short-term decisions which will require further work during 2006
Integrated management of the oceans
Percentage of environmental actions implemented under regional marine plans 30% completed
32% under way
Marine protected areas
Area of Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones managed by the Department of the Environment and Heritage for the Director of National Parks 27 245 378 hectares (includes Commonwealth marine reserves)

Note: Area protected in 2006 has been amended to reflect latest data available from the Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database
Percentage of protected areas managed by the Department of the Environment and Heritage for the Director of National Parks with management plans in operation 100% Management plans are available at
Great Barrier Reef—Representative Areas Programme Structural Adjustment Package (administered item)
The Package measures are effective in assisting fishers, fishery related businesses and communities impacted by the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park The package will be reviewed in 2006–07

Over 1 000 businesses have received or are being assessed for assistance under the package
Applications are processed and payments made to eligible recipients according to specified timeframes Applications have taken longer to assess than anticipated due to their complexity. The rush of applications just prior to the closing date has required consideration of other assessment approaches in order to complete the assessments within a reasonable timeframe
Full Business Restructuring Assistance (FBRA) applicants are provided with information to assist them in developing their applications. FBRA enables restructuring of business operations to assist them to manage the impacts of the rezoning A ‘how-to’ guide was prepared to assist business with applying for a grant

Fishers were given a datasheet that identifies how much of their fishing was within closed areas and how the licence buy out may assist them which, when used with the ‘how to’ guide and their financial statements, will enable them to determine what impact the rezoning has had on their business

Many land based sectors have been assisted with reports on the impact of the rezoning on their business which, when combined with their financial statements, can be used to identify the impact of the rezoning on their business

Full Business Restructuring Assistance grants to address the impact of the rezoning on a business
Number of payments made under each component of the package As of 30 June 2006:

599 Business Advice Assistance grants

122 Business Exit (licence buy out) grants

117 Employee Assistance grants

10 Business Exit (fishery related business) Assistance grants

116 Full Business Restructuring Assistance grants

492 Simplified Business Restructuring Assistance grants
Coastcare (administered item–Natural Heritage Trust)
Percentage of natural resource management regions that have an accredited natural resource management plan 94% (34 of 36) of the coastal natural resource management regions have an accredited regional plan. Another region has an approved regional strategic directions plan
Percentage of natural resource management regions that have an approved investment strategy 97% (35 of 36) of the coastal natural resource management regions have an approved investment strategy
Percentage of payments that are consistent with the terms and conditions of funding (Target: 100%) 100%
Number of projects funded See Natural Heritage Trust annual report and annual regional programme reports
Development of Sewerage Schemes for Boat Harbour and Sisters Beach, Tasmania
Extent to which the project will achieve government objectives All government project objectives have been met through the construction of a wastewater treatment plant at Shelter Point and new sewerage infrastructure at Boat Harbour Beach to improve the water quality of Boat Harbour Beach. Sewerage infrastructure and a wastewater treatment plant have also been completed for the Sisters Beach and Lake Llewellyn communities which will improve coastal water quality
Number of milestones achieved compared with those specified in the contract Boat Harbour Beach—all 4 contract milestones completed

Sisters Beach—all contract milestones completed

Contract signed with proponent to undertake stormwater management improvement works
Sub-output 1.3.1—Coastal strategies
Percentage of payments that are consistent with the terms and conditions of funding (Target: 100%)(a) 100%
Sub-output 1.3.2—Coastal investments
Percentage of payments that are consistent with the terms and conditions of funding (Target: 100%)(a) 100%
Sub-output 1.3.3—Marine conservation
Percentage of statutory timeframes triggered that are met (Target: >90%)(b) A report on compliance with statutory timeframes triggered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is provided in Appendix 4 of the EPBC Act annual report in Volume 2 of this annual report
(a) Applies to provision of grants programmes funded entirely from the Department of the Environment and Heritage appropriations for the output (i.e. not those marked administered items).
(b) Applies to areas that administer legislation, for example reporting timeframes triggered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Departmental outputs Budget prices
Actual expenses
Sub-output: 1.3.1 Coastal strategies
Sub-output: 1.3.2 Coastal investments
Sub-output: 1.3.3 Marine conservation
5 289
1 898
22 038
5 561
1 873
23 078
Total (Output 1.3: Conservation of the coasts and oceans) 29 225 30 512
Administered items
Great Barrier Reef – Representative Areas Programme Structural Adjustment Package
Natural Heritage Trust (Coastcare Programme)
Development of Sewerage Schemes for Boat Harbour and Sisters Beach, Tasmania
Structural Adjustment Package – Enhancement
Structural Adjustment Package – Business Restructuring Assistance
36 879
4 000
28 460
54 944
4 000
28 460
Total (Administered) 69 604 87 669

Other annual reports providing information on this output

Annual report on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 included in the second volume of this set of annual reports

Regional Programmes Report at

Annual report of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry at

Annual report of the Director of National Parks at

Annual report of the Natural Heritage Trust at

1 Resources for this activity are reported in the resource table in Land and inland waters under sub-output 1.2.1 wildlife protection.
2 The Australian Whale Sanctuary includes all Commonwealth waters generally from the three nautical mile state water limit out to about 200 nautical miles.

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