Marine Bioregional Planning

Developments in the East Marine Region

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What are Areas for Further Assessment (AFAs)?

Areas for Further Assessment are large areas that encompass representative examples of the range of biodiversity and ecosystems within a marine region. They are being used to narrow down the areas within which new Commonwealth Marine Reserves will be established. These reserves are being selected using a set of goals and principles that are set out in the Marine Bioregional profile for the East Marine Region. Once established, these reserves will form part of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas.

Consultation on the Areas for Further Assessment is the next step in a comprehensive analysis of the marine environment. The AFAs are being used to assist with the collection of additional information on uses and socio-economic values before proposals for new marine reserves are finalised.

Seven Areas for Further Assessment (AFA) have been identified in the East Marine Region. The region stretches from the tip of Cape York to the far coast of New South Wales, excluding the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. These are areas to be examined more closely to determine the best placement of marine reserves to protect our marine environment in a way that minimises impacts on industry.

The AFAs are NOT proposed Commonwealth Marine Reserves or green zones.

The seven AFAs are outlined in more detail in The Areas for Further Assessment in the East Marine Region Fact Sheet.

The history of marine bioregional planning in the East Marine Region

Marine bioregional planning is a three stage process and will result in the development of marine bioregional plans under national environmental law for all Commonwealth waters. It will also establish networks of Commonwealth Marine Reserves which will be part of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. All governments in Australia have a shared and international commitment to establish a national representative system by 2012.

Planning in the East Marine Region started in July 2006.

Stage one, the bioregional profile for the region, was released in May 2009. The profile describes the geomorphology, oceanography and ecology of the region, and identifies its conservation values. The profile also provides information about the human activities currently taking place in the region and explains how new Commonwealth Marine Reserves (CMRs) will be identified.

In June and July 2009 stakeholder forums were held in Brisbane, Cairns, and Sydney to outline the contents of the bioregional profile and the intent to develop the draft plan (Stage two) that includes a proposed network of marine reserves.

The Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, has now announced Areas for Further Assessment for the East Marine Region. The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is now gathering further information on these areas from government and non-government stakeholders.

The East Marine Bioregional Plan

In addition to the establishment of representative marine reserve networks, the marine bioregional planning process will lead to the preparation of a marine bioregional plan under the Section 176 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. As this law requires the Minister to have regard to a plan when making any decision of relevance to an area for which a plan is in place, the primary role of a plan is to support decision-making and to provide an integrated framework for all Commonwealth conservation measures and initiatives within a marine region.

Stakeholder and public consultation process

Non-government stakeholders in the East Marine Region include representatives of the commercial fishing, aquaculture, charter fishing, oil and gas, and shipping and ports industries, recreational users, Indigenous groups, conservation organisations, and emerging industries such as carbon sequestration and renewable energy. The next steps in the consultation process are:

  1. Targeted meetings of key stakeholder groups in the region will be held from late March to late May 2010 to gather input and views in relation to the Areas for Further Assessment. This input will inform the development of a draft proposal for a Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network for inclusion in the draft East Marine Bioregional Plan.
  2. A period of statutory consultation (90 days) will commence following the release of the draft East Marine Bioregional Plan, which will include the draft proposal for a Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network, including proposed zoning arrangements.
  3. Additional statutory consultation (minimum 60 days) will occur during the process of proclamation of the Commonwealth Marine Reserves as required under the national environment law. This will happen after the East Marine Bioregional Plan is finalised.

See the map below of Areas for Further Assessment and the Coral Sea Conservation Zone in the East Marine Region.

For more information

More information is available at Or email the department at

Map: Areas for Further Assessment and the Coral Sea Conservation Zone in the East Marine Region

Map showing Areas for Further Assessment and the Coral Sea Conservation Zone in the East Marine Region

The contents of this document have been compiled using a range of source materials and is valid as at March 2010. The Australian Government is not liable for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of or reliance on the contents of the document.


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