Publications archive

Department of the Environment and Water Resources annual report 2006–07

Volume one
Department of the Environment and Water Resources, 2007
ISSN 1441-9335

Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)

Coasts and oceans

The Department of the Environment and Water Resources develops and implements 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

  • Coastal water quality and wetlands protection
  • Sewerage schemes for Boat Harbour Beach and Sisters Beach
Water Resources Division and Water Assets and Natural Resources Division
  • Coastcare
Natural Resource Management Programmes Division
  • Coastal zone management
  • Marine bioregional plans
  • Marine protected areas
  • Threatened marine species protection
  • Migratory species protection
  • Whale and dolphin protection
  • Fisheries assessment
  • Marine pests management
  • International marine conservation
  • Great Barrier Reef structural adjustment package
  • Marine science
  • Great Barrier Reef water quality protection
Marine and Biodiversity Division

Objectives

Coastal strategies

Coastal investments

Marine conservation

Results 2006—07

Coastal strategies

The department is working with state agencies, regional bodies and local authorities 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 Australian, state and territory governments on how to deal with coastal problems in an integrated way. The 10-year agreement aims to protect the coastal environment and to safeguard coastal industries and communities by focusing on five coastal issues requiring national collaboration. These are land- and marine-based sources of pollution (including acid sulfate soils), managing climate change, introduced pest plants and animals, planning for population change and capacity building.

An implementation plan for the framework was jointly developed by all coastal jurisdictions and agreed in May 2006. The plan sets objectives and actions required to address key coastal issues identified in the framework. The plan is available at www.environment.gov.au/coasts/publications/framework/.

Planning for population change

Development pressure associated with rapid population growth is a major issue confronting sustainable management of the coastal zone. Intensified use of, and demand for, coastal resources pose a threat to sensitive coastal environments and have profound social implications. Key to managing the environmental, social and economic impacts of population change in coastal areas is to obtain data on people moving into and out of coastal areas including numbers, characteristics and reasons for the move.

In January 2007 the department, in collaboration with the Victorian Government, worked with demographers and planners from federal, state and local government agencies, non-government organisations and research organisations to identify specific information relating to population change and demographic trends required for planning.

Climate change

The coastal zone of Australia has been recognised as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in the government's report Climate Change Risk and Vulnerability, and most recently within the Council of Australian Governments' National Climate Change Adaptation Framework. This vulnerability is primarily due to the concentration of Australia's population on the coastal fringe. The potential impacts include coastal inundation from sea level rise and storm surge in low lying areas, flooding from more intense rainfall events, and damage to coastal assets from storm events.

To identify areas of high priority for management, the department is conducting a coastal vulnerability assessment to support decision-makers in managing for the potential impacts of climate change. This project was endorsed by the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council in November 2006, and is to be substantially progressed by June 2008 under the National Climate Change Adaptation Framework. Following the initial assessment, a more targeted assessment will be undertaken to provide detailed information and tools for decision-makers.

Acid sulfate soils

Acid sulfate soils occur naturally along large areas of Australia's coastline where the majority of Australians live. 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, contaminate drinking water and food such as oysters, and cause considerable damage to buildings, infrastructure and estuarine ecosystems.

In 2006—07 the department, with Natural Heritage Trust funding, commissioned detailed acid sulfate soil maps of hotspots within five priority areas across the country. These were Far North Queensland and Mackay—Whitsunday natural resource management regions adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, the Gippsland coast from Corner Inlet to Lake Tyers in Victoria, the Northern Territory coastal zone from Bynoe Harbour to Cape Hotham, and the Perth Metropolitan and Peel Region on the Swan coastal plain in Western Australia. The maps will assist policy and planning recommendations.

The department continued to work with some of Australia's top soil scientists to raise awareness of acid sulfate soils through the development of a National Atlas of Acid Sulfate Soils, and a national information service that includes the publication of a quarterly newsletter (ASSAY) and a national website.

The national atlas contains a map and database showing the distribution of acid sulfate soils in Australia. The atlas is an important tool for land managers who need to identify areas where development is best avoided or areas that will need special management if disturbed. The atlas is available online at www.asris.csiro.au .

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 covers the sources of coastal pollution through the Coastal Catchments Initiative and Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.

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. These plans are prepared in accordance with the framework's requirements.

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). It does this by preparing water quality improvement plans for coastal hotpots and funding interim projects needed to prepare the plans. The first two water quality improvement plans completed under the initiative were finalised in 2006—07. These were for the Mossman and Daintree catchments in the Douglas Shire, Queensland, and the Derwent Estuary, Tasmania.

The current status of all water quality improvement plans and the amount spent on plans and interim projects in 2006—07 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. In 2006—07 the department initiated water quality improvement plans and related interim projects in two Great Barrier Reef catchments—the Fitzroy and Barron River catchments—and in three other hotspots—Botany Bay, Gippsland and Adelaide coastal waters.

In 2006—07, the Australian Government provided $7.164 million from the Natural Heritage Trust for this work, with $3.873 million of this for the Great Barrier Reef component.

Coastal Catchments Initiative—hotspots

Coastal Catchments Initiative-hotspots
Current status of water quality improvement plans
Hotspot Progress Expected completion $ spent 2006—07
Mossman and Daintree catchments, Great Barrier Reef Completed April 2007   100,000
Derwent estuary, Tasmania Completed April 2007   27,273
Peel Inlet and Harvey estuary, Western Australia Public consultation draft
in preparation
Mid 2007 90,000
Port Adelaide waterways (Barker Inlet and Port River) Public consultation draft
in preparation
Mid 2007 31,818
Adelaide's coastal waters Initiated Late 2008 300,000
Moreton Bay, Queensland Planning under way Late 2007 285,000
Port Phillip Bay and Western Port, Victoria Planning under way Mid 2008 705,434
Gippsland Lakes and Corner Inlet Water quality planning projects initiated Mid 2008 330,000
Myall and Wallis lakes, New South Wales Planning under way Mid 2008 455,636
Botany Bay Water quality planning projects initiated Mid 2008 220,000
Swan—Canning estuary, Western Australia Initiated Mid 2009 1,343,100
Vasse—Wonnerup Estuary and Geographe Bay, Western Australia Initiated Mid 2009 108,000
Darwin Harbour Initiated Mid 2009 0
Great Barrier reef coastal catchments (including Tully, Barron, Ross, Black Burdekin, Fitzroy and Burnett basins and Mackay—Whitsunday catchments) Planning under way, various stages Late 2007 to mid 2009 2,060,670
Reef Water Quality Protection Plan

The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan aims to halt and reverse the decline in the 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 funds activities under the plan partly from the Natural Heritage Trust and partly from the Queensland Wetlands Programme (see Queensland Wetlands Programme in this chapter). Water quality improvement plans prepared under the Great Barrier Reef component of the Coastal Catchments Initiative are the primary mechanism for delivering the plan's objectives.

Major projects supporting the plan during 2006—07 included:

Water quality improvement planning involves addressing scientific, social and economic uncertainties. This includes understanding scientific error associated with systems modelling and ecosystem response, the effectiveness of on-ground interventions to achieve water quality targets, and the likelihood of a suitable level of uptake of those interventions to achieve the plan's targets. Scientific uncertainty is addressed by incorporating a 'margin of safety' into pollutant load targets and load allocations. This is combined with socio-economic uncertainties in a 'reasonable assurance statement', which demonstrates that the plan will achieve its objectives.

To provide guidance to planning agencies, the department has initiated a project to prepare protocols for addressing 'margin of safety' and 'reasonable assurance', which is to be completed mid-2008. The department also supported the creation of a partnership between the Australian and Queensland governments and the regional natural resource management bodies adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, and worked with these partners on research and extension programmes aimed at managing nutrient and sediment pollution from agriculture.

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 projects, 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. A number of projects were completed and others begun. These included:

National Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities

The Australian Government, as a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, has a responsibility to protect its marine environment from land-based activities. In this context Australia is a strong supporter of the United Nations' non-binding Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. The global programme of action is designed to be a source of conceptual and practical guidance for national and regional authorities to devise and implement sustained action to prevent, reduce, control and eliminate marine degradation from land-based activities. It translates the global programme of action to the national level.

The then Minister for the Environment and Heritage launched Australia's National Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Landbased Activities to international delegates at the 2nd Intergovernmental Review of the Global Programme of Action in Beijing in October 2006.

The national programme of action builds on the National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management and the Framework for Marine and Estuarine Water Quality Protection (see section on integrated coastal zone management in this chapter). It sets out the specific activities to address land-based sources of pollution; and emphasises the connections between catchments, river systems, coastal estuaries and the marine environment, and the importance of these ecosystems to Australian society.

Coastal investments

Australian Government investments in coastal conservation activities are delivered by a joint arrangement between the department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Coastcare

Coastcare is the Natural Heritage Trust's programme for protecting coastal catchments, ecosystems and the marine environment. Total expenditure under Coastcare in 2006—07 was $53 million. Since 1997 more than 60,000 Coastcare volunteers have been active in monitoring and rehabilitating the health of about 1.3 million hectares of coastal land.

Details of Coastcare investments are reported in the annual reports of the Natural Heritage Trust and the annual regional programme reports available at http://www.nrm.gov.au/publications/#annreps .

Sewerage schemes for Boat Harbour Beach and Sisters Beach

Through the Australian Government's $0.2 million sewerage schemes for Boat Harbour Beach and Sisters Beach, the department is supporting the Waratah—Wynyard Council in Tasmania to develop reticulated sewerage systems with wastewater treatment plants to improve the water quality. Improved urban planning and wastewater treatment compliance measures, including construction of sewerage and wastewater treatment infrastructure and stormwater management improvements, have been undertaken in both areas. Work funded under this programme will secure long-term water quality benefits for the communities of Boat Harbour Beach and Sisters Beach.

Marine conservation

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Australia has rights and responsibilities over one of the world's largest marine jurisdictions—more than 14 million square kilometres of ocean.

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

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

Marine bioregional planning

Under section 176 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Australian Government is preparing marine bioregional plans and establishing networks of marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters as part of the Commonwealth's contribution to the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. Commonwealth waters are waters generally between three and 200 nautical miles from the coast (Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone). The department has been allocated $37.75 million over four years (2006—2010) to develop these marine bioregional plans.

The department is working with state governments, research institutes and others to develop marine bioregional plans for five major marine regions around the continent: the South-west, South-east, East, North-west and North.

Marine bioregional planning regions

Marine bioregional planning regions

Marine bioregional planning process

Marine bioregional planning is being undertaken to better protect marine environments and conserve biodiversity, to deliver greater certainty to industry about conservation priorities in the Commonwealth marine area and to provide better information to decision-makers and the wider community.

Marine bioregional plans will provide a foundation for future decision-making in the marine environment. They will identify conservation priorities, the measures needed to address them and the statutory obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that apply within a region. Marine bioregional planning is also the process by which the Australian Government is identifying marine protected areas within its jurisdiction for inclusion in the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas.

The first step in the marine bioregional planning process is the development of a regional profile. Regional profiles provide the information base upon which the draft and final marine bioregional plans are developed. Regional profiles describe a region's ecology, conservation values, current and predicted future use patterns and the process by which marine protected areas in each marine region will be identified.

South-west Marine Bioregional Plan

The South-west Marine Region is the first Australian marine region to undergo planning under the recently strengthened Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The South-west Marine Bioregional Plan will cover Commonwealth waters from the eastern end of Kangaroo Island, South Australia, to the waters offshore from Shark Bay in Western Australia.

As at 30 June 2007 the regional profile for the South-west Marine Region was well advanced. The department invested $184,950 to gather information on the region's current and predicted future use patterns, key ecological features, and conservation values. The profile will provide the information required to develop the South-west Marine Bioregional Plan, expected to be completed around mid-2009.

The department signed a memorandum of understanding with the Western Australian Government to facilitate marine bioregional planning in the south-west.

The South-west Regional Profile and its approach to the marine bioregional planning process will be used as a blueprint for regional profiles and bioregional plans in all the other marine regions.

South-east Marine Bioregional Plan

The South-east Marine Region covers more than 1.6 million square kilometres of water off Victoria, Tasmania (including Macquarie Island), southern New South Wales up to the town of Bermagui, and eastern South Australia from the South Australian—Victorian border to Victor Harbor.

The plan for the South-east Marine Region was completed in 2004 under the previous non-statutory regional marine planning process. A new South-east Marine Bioregional Plan is expected to be developed towards the end of the four-year planning process to bring the approach in the South-east under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. A key component of the previous planning process was the development of a network of marine protected areas within the region (see South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network in this chapter).

East Marine Bioregional Plan

The East Marine Region covers more than 2.4 million square kilometres of water off the east coast of Queensland and New South Wales (including Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island), from the town of Bermagui to the tip of Cape York. The region includes waters between three nautical miles from the coastline to the edge of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone, but does not include the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which is managed separately by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The department began developing the regional profile for the East Marine Region in 2006—07 by commissioning several reports from leading providers of scientific and socio-economic information, investing $170,000 to obtain data and expert services. The regional profile will include up-to-date information on both biodiversity and economic uses of the region and will be underpinned by extensive data on oceanography and geomorphology. The profile will help to identify the conservation priorities for the region.

North-west Marine Bioregional Plan

The North-west Marine Bioregional Plan will cover Commonwealth waters from Kalbarri in Western Australia to the Northern Territory—Western Australian border. The department concluded a memorandum of understanding in 2006—07 with three Western Australian Government agencies to facilitate a cooperative approach to marine planning in the north-west.

The department invested $154,000 to gather information on the ecology, key species and habitats of the region, and on its socio-economic characteristics, potential future developments and how people are currently using its resources. The information is being used to develop a regional profile describing the region's conservation values, social and economic characteristics, and the process by which marine protected areas will be identified in the north-west.

The department entered into a financial agreement with the University of Western Australia through which the Western Australian Marine Science Institution is undertaking an inventory of marine and coastal research for the North-west region. Western Australian Government agencies and private sector companies are co-investing in the inventory and research; tertiary education institutions are also involved.

North Marine Bioregional Plan

Marine planning for the waters between the Goulburn Islands and Torres Strait has been under way since 2002. In June 2006 the boundaries of the North Marine Region were extended westward to approximate a seawards extension of the border between the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

During 2006—07 the department focused on consolidating the information base for the North Marine Region and on filling in the information gaps created by the western extension of the boundary. A number of consultancies to collect and collate data on the environmental, social and economic values of the region were finalised, and a workshop was held to bring together scientists with particular expertise in the species and ecosystems of the region to characterise the marine environment.

With consolidation of the available information base for the extended region and a report structure agreed, work commenced on drafting the regional profile for the North Marine Bioregional Plan. The regional profile is expected to be completed in late 2007.

Marine protected areas

The department, 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 2006—07, $4,628,548 from the national component of the Natural Heritage Trust supported the declaration of new marine protected areas and the management of the existing marine protected area network. This figure does not include funding for Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve which is managed by the Australian Antarctic Division.

The management budget covered key functions such as research and monitoring, structural adjustment, and compliance and enforcement. Some management functions for existing marine protected areas were delivered by state agencies under service level agreements with the department. Detailed results are set out in the annual report of the Director of National Parks atwww.environment.gov.au/about/annual-report.

Current marine protected areas

Current marine protected areas
Proclamation of the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network

Australia's South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network was proclaimed on 28 June 2007 and came into effect in September 2007. The network covers 226,458 square kilometres and comprises 13 marine protected areas stretching from the far south coast of New South Wales, around Tasmania and Victoria and west to Kangaroo Island off South Australia. It is the first temperate deep sea network of marine reserves in the world.

The network will protect typical examples of the marine environment of the South-east Marine Region. Some reserves contain examples of striking features of the region, such as submerged mountains and canyons, whilst others include typical examples of the sea floor, such as muddy bottoms and vast undulating plains. The network ensures that examples of all the habitats and the life they support in the South-east Marine Region are represented in the marine protected area network.

The department invited public comment on the establishment of the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network in late 2006 and received 127 submissions. There was general support for the network from commercial and recreational fishers and the mining industry, with a more critical response from scientists and the conservation sector. Support was expressed for the department's consultative approach. Subsequent consultation with the commercial fishing industry and petroleum industry led to agreement on interim management arrangements for the network.

The interim management arrangements commence when the network comes into effect on 3 September 2007. They will ensure that the important values of the reserves are protected until the statutory management plan for the network is developed in 2007—08.

The department published a user's guide for commercial fisheries and material to inform the general public of the network's values and compliance requirements. The department negotiated with state and Australian Government agencies to obtain compliance services in the new reserves. Compliance management systems are being improved through the development of a new marine incident database.

Grey nurse shark.

Grey nurse shark.

Photo: David Harasti

Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve

The Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve was declared on 28 May 2007 to protect the critically endangered grey nurse shark. The Cod Grounds reserve covers an area of 300 hectares located off the coast of northern New South Wales near Laurieton.

The decline in the grey nurse shark population has been attributed to its low reproduction rate as well as fishing-related mortality. The department's Threatened Species Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark recommended the Cod Grounds be declared a sanctuary zone because it provides critical habitat for the shark to feed and reproduce. All commercial and recreational fishing is now prohibited in the area.

The department has made arrangements with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries to carry out compliance and enforcement activities within the reserve. A structural adjustment process for affected commercial fishing businesses is being implemented under the Australian Government's Marine Protected Areas and Displaced Fishing Policy.

Migratory and threatened marine species protection

The department is working to prevent threatened species in the marine environment from becoming extinct and to recover their populations. This work is guided by recovery plans made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 which set out the actions needed to maximise the chances of long-term survival of threatened species in the wild.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 also provides protection for migratory species. These include species listed in the appendices to the Bonn Convention (Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals) under which Australia is a range state, the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Peoples' Republic of China for the Protection of Migratory Birds and their Environment (CAMBA) and the Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of Australia for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Birds in Danger of Extinction and their Environment (JAMBA) (see international marine conservation in this chapter).

Recovery plans for listed threatened marine species

Under amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 the minister must decide whether to have a recovery plan for a species within 90 days of it becoming listed as a threatened species.

For already listed marine species, recovery plans are in place for:

The recovery plans for the great white shark and grey nurse shark are due for review in 2007. A recovery plan is under development for the Australian sea-lion. A multiple species recovery plan is under development for freshwater sawfish (Pristis microdon), speartooth shark (Glyphis sp. A) and northern river shark (Glyphis sp. C).

Marine debris

'Injury and fatality to vertebrate marine life caused by ingestion of, or entanglement in, harmful marine debris' was listed as a key threatening process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in August 2003. Harmful marine debris impacts on a range of marine life, including protected species of birds, sharks, turtles and marine mammals. More than 20 listed threatened marine species are known to be affected.

In order to address these threats, the department is preparing a threat abatement plan for marine debris. To date, background papers have been prepared and reviewed. National agreement will be sought on the plan, which is expected to be finalised in 2008.

The department is coordinating several projects related to marine debris that will be used to inform policy development. The department worked with the Dhimurru Aboriginal Land Corporation on joint projects to quantify the impact of debris on turtle survival. Wind patterns and ocean currents across northern Australia are being investigated to determine the movement of debris in Australian waters and onto the coast. Nationally consistent protocols for collecting data on marine debris are being developed, drawing on international experience.

Ghost net project wins a Banksia Award

Ghost nets are fishing nets that have either been lost or discarded at sea. For decades, these nets have killed thousands of turtles, dolphins, dugongs and other marine life.

The Australian Government contributed about $2 million, through the Natural Heritage Trust, for the Carpentaria Ghost Net Programme. This programme won the marine category of the Banksia Awards in July 2007.

The programme is helping Indigenous communities all around the Gulf of Carpentaria work together to rid the coastline of ghost nets and other marine debris.

Indigenous communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory have so far cleaned up tonnes of fishing nets that have accumulated on the coastline. The removal of the nets from the coastline will ensure that they do not wash back into the water and pose a further risk to marine life.

New migratory species listings

Following the inclusion of the basking shark on the appendices to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, the species has been included in the list of migratory species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The roseate tern will be included in the migratory species list in 2007, once the treaty making process to amend the annexes to the Japan—Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (JAMBA) and China— Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (CAMBA) is completed.

Migratory shorebird conservation

The first wildlife conservation plan made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds, is ensuring greater protection and conservation of migratory birds. In 2006—07 the Australian Government provided $494,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust to implement the plan, and to promote international cooperation to conserve migratory waterbirds through the Partnership for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and the Sustainable Use of their Habitats in the East Asian— Australasian Flyway. The flyway encompasses 22 countries; 10 of these have so far joined the partnership.

Whale and dolphin protection

The department is responsible for carrying out the Australian Government's whale protection policies, including through international forums such as the International Whaling Commission.

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 Sanctuary in Commonwealth waters (see case study). The Act also regulates how people should behave around whales and dolphins.

The department hosted the 5th National Disentanglement Workshop in Hobart in April 2007 in conjunction with the Tasmanian Department for Primary Industries and Water. The workshop promoted the use of best practice methods for disentangling whales from fishing gear and shark nets, and the importance of having highly trained personnel around the country to respond to entanglement incidents. The workshop trained Australian and state government employees to disentangle whales safely from fishing gear and marine debris. International experts and observers from the Pacific region also participated.

In order to keep track of entangled whales that cannot be disentangled immediately, all states now have satellite telemetry buoys which can be attached to entanglement gear. The department supplied most of the buoys. The Australian disentanglement network is gaining a worldwide reputation for its better practice training methods and successful, safe disentanglement procedures. The network is now being invited to extend its methods to Pacific countries, South Africa and some European countries.

The department funded a number of research projects relating to the conservation and management of three threatened whale species, the blue, southern right and humpback whale. 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 on the east coast continue to increase at around 7 per cent and 10.5 per cent a year respectively. Comparable figures for the west coast are not available; however it is assumed that the recovery rate is similar. Currently there are around 2,400 southern right whales and 33,000 humpback whales. Blue whale studies are continuing, but there are still insufficient data to estimate population size or indicate whether recovery is occurring. There are no current estimates for the abundance of the other three threatened species of large whales: the blue, fin and sei whales.

The new Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science in the department's Australian Antarctic Division began a number of research projects worth over $400,000 to improve knowledge of the distribution, abundance and habitat requirements of whales and dolphins. This information will assist in conserving these species.

To mark the United Nations' 2007 International Year of the Dolphin the department launched a website (www.environment.gov.au/coasts/species/cetaceans/dolphin-year-2007.html) and developed a teachers' toolkit to help teachers to organise dolphin related activities for school children. The toolkit prompts discussion about the threats facing dolphins and highlights positive steps teachers can take with their students to help protect these creatures.

The then Minister for the Environment and Heritage launched the Save Our Whales public education campaign in 2006 which includes an educational interactive website for children, information materials about whales, current research projects, whale-watching guidelines and whale rescue information (www.saveourwhales.gov.au ).

For more information on Australia's efforts in the International Whaling Commission see the section on international marine conservation in this chapter.

The Australian Whale Sanctuary

Map of the Australian Whale Sanctuary

Australian waters are home to a large number of unique and magnificent marine mammals, including 45 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Some of these species are permanent residents in Australian waters, whilst others are occasional visitors, migrating from their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic to the warmer waters of the Australian coast during the winter.

Australians have long recognised the importance of whales, dolphins and porpoises to our unique marine ecosystems, and believe that it is essential to ensure the survival of these mammals. The Australian Government has made whale, dolphin and porpoise conservation a priority.

The Australian Whale Sanctuary protects whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Commonwealth marine area beyond Australia's coastal waters. It includes all of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone which generally extends to 200 nautical miles (approximately 370 kilometres) from the coast, but extends further in some areas to cover offshore territorial waters and islands.

All coastal states and territories provide similar protection for whales. State and territory governments are responsible for protecting whales and dolphins in waters within three nautical miles of the coastline.

Activities in the Australian Whale Sanctuary that may impact on whales, dolphins and porpoises may require a permit. Permits may only be issued after consideration of all the impacts of the activity have been taken into account. Permits cannot be issued to kill a whale, dolphin or porpoise or to take one for live display.

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 Commonwealth-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 may approve the continued export of the product if he is satisfied with the operation of the fishery.

The department completed assessments of two Commonwealth-managed fisheries and 13 state-managed fisheries in 2006—07. All fisheries assessed received export approval. See the second volume of this set of annual reports for a full list of the assessed fisheries.

Since 2000, when the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 came into force, the minister has declared 122 fisheries 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.

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 extra 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.

Marine pest management framework

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.

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 2006—07 was $254,000. Projects funded by the department include:

International marine conservation

The seas and seabed beyond the national jurisdiction of individual countries—the 'high seas'—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. The department also supports the Australian Government's obligations under the Japan—Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (JAMBA) and the China—Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (CAMBA).

An update to the names used to describe the birds in the annex to both agreements was agreed with Japan and China. The roseate tern was included in the annexes to both agreements following banding research which demonstrated migration between Swain Reef in Queensland and Japan and China. The Australian painted snipe was removed from the annex to CAMBA following research which showed that this species does not migrate to China.

The department finalised a bilateral migratory bird agreement with the Republic of Korea. The agreement was signed by the Australian and Korean foreign ministers in December 2006 and is currently in the final stages of treaty making. It will enter into force in 2007.

The department led the finalisation and launch in November 2006 of the Partnership for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and the Sustainable Use of their Habitats in the East Asian—Australasian Flyway. The partnership will provide a framework for international cooperation to conserve migratory waterbirds and their habitat across their range. Australia has been invited to chair the partnership for the first two years.

United Nations

In December 2006 Australia co-sponsored a strong resolution adopted at the 61st United Nations General Assembly which contains measures to strengthen management of fishing practices on the high seas. Specifically, the resolution requires regional fisheries management organisations to develop and implement interim measures by the end of 2007 to regulate bottom trawling, to ensure these activities do not adversely affect vulnerable marine ecosystems. If interim measures are not adopted by 31 December 2007, the regional fisheries management organisations must take measures to ensure bottom fishing activities cease.

Asia—Pacific

The department is continuing to work closely with Pacific Island countries and territories to advance a number of whale and dolphin conservation initiatives in the region. Australia was actively involved in the development of the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. The department is working with the secretariat of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) on developing the 2007—2012 SPREP Whale and Dolphin Action Plan.

In March 2007 Australia hosted a workshop in Samoa on whale and fishery interactions in the Pacific and the complexity of the ocean food web. The workshop highlighted the negligible impact large whales have on fish stocks as their diet consists mainly of krill.

The department was involved in the development of the 2007—2012 SPREP marine turtle and dugong action plans, and provided funding to implement priority actions for capacity building in Pacific Island countries. In 2007—08 several Pacific Islanders will join Australian researchers and Indigenous Australians to share knowledge about turtle and dugong management, and about research and monitoring activities.

Australia is assisting regional marine conservation and management through the Arafura and Timor Seas Expert Forum. The forum is one of Australia's major partnership initiatives arising from 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. Its aim is to improve the sustainable management of living marine resources in the Arafura and Timor seas region. In 2006 forum partners developed a bid for funding to support Indonesia and Timor-Leste to participate in the Arafura and Timor Seas Expert Forum to 2014. The bid was submitted to the Global Environment Facility Council for consideration in June 2007. The department is also progressing regional marine conservation and collective actions on high priority issues including marine debris through the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia.

Australia is helping to improve the management and sustainability of the oceans and marine resources within the Asia—Pacific region through the Asia—Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. In 2006—07 Australia promoted and supported activities covering marine debris, the potential of marine protected areas to alleviate poverty, marine invasive species and illegal fishing.

The department hosted the 20th annual meeting of the APEC Marine Resources Conservation Working Group in April 2007 and joint meetings of the conservation and fisheries working groups. The department will use 2007—08 to promote ecosystem based management and marine protected areas, and to increase understanding of the economic consequences of marine debris in the Asia—Pacific region.

International Whaling Commission

The Australian Government continued its strong opposition to 'scientific' and commercial whaling and presented strong arguments at this year's International Whaling Commission meeting to put a stop to whaling. At the 59th meeting held in May 2007, the simple majority was regained by pro-conservation countries, and the ban on commercial whaling remained in place. Several resolutions were passed by the majority of countries condemning 'scientific' whaling in Antarctica, reaffirming the primacy of the commission on cetacean matters and recognising the value of non-lethal uses of whale resources.

The government is working closely with other pro-conservation countries to ensure they stay firm in their opposition to any form of commercial and 'scientific' whaling, and to bring greater focus to the economic benefits of non-consumptive use of whales. The government will call for the adoption of non-lethal techniques in researching the status of whales and their habitats.

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 fishing' 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 $170.773 million, including $84.033 million in 2006—07, but the final amount of assistance provided is yet to be determined.

As of 30 June 2007, 1700 grants totalling $134.63 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, 314 grants for Full Business Restructuring Assistance totalling $86.44 million and 496 grants for Simplified Business Restructuring Assistance amounting to $11.31 million.

Marine science

Scientific research is an important component of the Australian Government's marine conservation strategy. The department works in partnership with other government agencies and scientists to increase understanding of marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

Marine surveys

In 2006—07 the department co-sponsored surveys of seabed biodiversity in two of the Commonwealth marine reserves that make up the new South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network (i.e. Huon and Tasman Fracture) and funded analyses of information from a previous survey of the Zeehan Commonwealth Marine Reserve. The department contributed about $1.1 million or 48 per cent of the cost of the surveys. The surveys are providing the first baseline inventories of biodiversity and habitat in the reserves and helping to better define the reserves' conservation values. The work will also help achieve the objectives articulated in the management plan for the former Tasmanian Seamounts Marine Reserve (now incorporated into the larger Huon Commonwealth Marine Reserve), and will inform the management plan for the entire South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network.

South-east marine survey

The department, in collaboration with CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, conducted surveys of the Huon and Tasman Fracture Commonwealth marine reserves in the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network. The surveys were undertaken from the national facility vessel RV Southern Surveyor in waters between 100 and 1,800 metres deep.

A cluster of seamount pinnacles in the Huon marine protected area.

A cluster of seamount pinnacles in the Huon marine protected area. The image on the left shows information prior to the survey and the image on the right shows the high resolution map of the same area produced from the survey.

Photo: CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.

Scientists conducted acoustic swath mapping to obtain high quality maps of the seabed and took images of benthic fauna using state-of- the-art video and still photographic techniques. These techniques are being developed to provide a quantitative and non-destructive way of monitoring sensitive environments such as those that exist on seamounts.

Scientists collected several hundred marine species for biodiversity inventories. These species will be identified by specialist museum taxonomists. It is expected that many of the species will be new to science. Information from this project will inform the management of protected areas in the South-east Marine Region.

Oceans Portal

The department, working with Australian Government marine science agencies, completed the transfer of the Oceans Portal, an online marine database, to the CSIRO. The Oceans Portal allows users to bring together information from a number of participating Australian Government science and information agencies and museums, and to create a product, such as a map. The Oceans Portal will hold data from the department as well as the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Royal Australian Navy and CSIRO. Access to the Oceans Portal will become available late in 2007.

Ocean Biogeographic Information System

The department continued its involvement in the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) in partnership with CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research by supporting projects that add to knowledge about the diversity of life in Australia's oceans. New information was provided to OBIS on marine invertebrates, larval fish, zooplankton, Antarctic fauna and flora, cetaceans, seabirds, fish, seals and penguins.

To date over 400,000 records are available through OBIS. When all projects are completed, more than 500,000 records are expected to be available. The system will encourage sharing of marine data by academics, museums, universities and industry research bodies. OBIS can be accessed at www.obis.org.au .

Results for performance indicators

  Performance indicator   2006—07 results
Estuaries and coastal waters
Number of water quality improvement plans and associated interim projects completed or under development 2 plans were completed and 4 initiated
Number of Australian Government obligations under the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Protection Plan either completed or in progress 1 action for which the department has direct responsibility has been completed and 9 actions are in progress
Development of sewerage schemes for Boat Harbour Beach and Sisters Beach, Tasmania (Administered item)
Extent to which the project will achieve government objectives High—project objectives have been and will continue to be met through the construction of a wastewater treatment plant at Shelter Point and new sewerage infrastructure at Boat Harbour Beach to improve coastal water quality. Sewerage infrastructure and a wastewater treatment plant have been completed for the Sisters Beach and Lake Llewellyn communities
Number of milestones achieved compared with those specified in the contract Boat Harbour Beach—all contract milestones completed

Sisters Beach—all contract milestones completed

The Sisters Beach Waterways Improvement Strategy—Stormwater Management Improvement Programme contract was due to be completed in April 2007. While most of the work has been completed, there are still a few elements to be finalised
Natural Heritage Trust (Coastcare)
(See indicators for the Natural Heritage Trust in land and inland waters chapter) Results are reported in land and inland waters
Recovery of threatened marine wildlife
Number of recovery plans (i) being prepared and (ii) in operation (i) 2 recovery plans are being prepared—1 for the Australian sea-lion and a multiple species plan for Pristis microdon, Glyphis sp. A and Glyphis sp. C

(ii) 7 plans are in operation covering 25 species
Percentage of listed threatened marine species and ecological communities with recovery plans in operation 86% (25 of 29) of species have recovery plans in operation
Key threats to marine biodiversity
Number of threat abatement plans
(i) being prepared or revised and
(ii) in operation
(i) 1 threat abatement plan is being prepared for marine debris

(ii) 1 plan is in operation for incidental bycatch of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing
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%
Fisheries
Percentage of environmental recommendations implemented under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 assessments of fisheries management Over 1,000 recommendations for improvement in fisheries management across Australia have been made. The majority are ongoing and require adaptive management. The progress and adequacy of implementation is considered within the reassessment process
Marine protected areas 1
Area of Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones managed by the Department of the Environment and Water Resources for the Director of National Parks 27,245,678 hectares (including Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve)
Percentage of protected areas managed by the Department of the Environment and Water Resources for the Director of National Parks with management plans in operation 86% (12 of 14) marine protected areas have management plans in operation (inclusive of Heard and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve)

Interim management arrangements are in place for the newly declared Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve until the management plan is put into effect. Mermaid Reef National Nature Reserve is currently being managed in a way consistent with Australian management principles for IUCN (World Conservation Union) category 1A until the 2ndmanagement plan comes into effect (expected in late 2007)
Marine bioregional plans 2
Number of marine bioregional plans and profiles (i) being prepared or revised and (ii) in operation (i) 4 marine bioregional plans are being developed: the South-west, north-west, north and east marine regions

(ii) none
International whaling 3
The degree to which Australia's policy interests are advanced, including through the International Whaling Commission Pro-conservation countries regained a simple majority at the 59thInternational Whaling Commission meeting to continue the ban on commercial whaling

A proposal for small-species coastal whaling was defeated

Resolutions were passed reaffirming the primacy of the commission on cetaceans, condemning 'scientific' whaling, and recognising the value of non-lethal use of whales

Moves by pro-whaling countries to review the listing of whale species on the Appendices to CITES, which could have led to the opening of trade in some species of large whales, were defeated at the CITES meeting in June 2007

CITES acknowledged the primacy of the International Whaling Commission in the management of all whales and confirmed the ban on trade will remain whilst the moratorium is in place

A memoranda of understanding on the Conservation of Cetaceans and their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region came into effect in September 2006 and has 11 signatories including Australia
Output 1.3—Conservation of the coasts and oceans
Policy advisor role: The minister is satisfied with the timeliness and accuracy of briefs and draft ministerial correspondence provided by the department Minister was satisfied with timeliness and quality of briefs. The department has experienced challenges in responding to the unprecedented volume of correspondence now being received, but procedural adjustments and new systems have improved timeliness
Provider role 4: percentage of payments that are consistent with the terms and conditions of funding (Target: 100%) 100%
Regulator role 5: percentage of statutory timeframes triggered that are met (Target:
>90%)
A report on the compliance with statutory timeframes triggered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is provided in the second volume of this set of annual reports
Price Refer to the resources table below
Notes:
1 Detailed performance results for Commonwealth reserves are in the annual report of the Director of National Parks.
2 This performance indicator is from the 2007—08 Portfolio Budget Statements.
3 This performance indicator appears under outcome 2 in the 2006—07 Portfolio Budget Statements, but responsibility is now with outcome 1.
4 Applies only to the administration of grants programmes funded entirely from departmental funding for this output. Any grants programmes within this output that are wholly or partially funded through administered appropriations are separately reported.
5 Includes explicit reporting timeframes triggered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Resources
Elements of pricing Budget prices
$'000
Actual expenses
$'000
Departmental outputs
Sub-output: 1.3.1 Coastal strategies 5,525 5,499
Sub-output: 1.3.2 Coastal investment 2,008 1,951
Sub-output: 1.3.3 Marine conservation 23,457 23,932
Total Output 1.3 30,990 31,382
Administered items
Great Barrier Reef—Representative Areas Programme Structural Adjustment Package 82,154 65,887
Natural Heritage Trust (Coastcare Programme) 52,556 52,556
Development of sewerage schemes for Boat Harbour Beach and Sisters Beach, Tasmania 200 190
Total (Administered) 134,910 118,633