Marine Bioregional Planning

Questions and answers on East Region Areas for Further Assessment

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What are Areas for Further Assessment (AFAs)?

AFAs are areas that will be examined more closely by the Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts to determine the best placement of marine reserves to protect our marine environment as part of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas.

AFAs are NOT proposed Commonwealth Marine Reserves (CMRs) or Green Zones. They do not have any legislative or regulatory impact.

AFAs are large areas that encompass representative samples of the identified conservation values in the East Marine Region. Conservation values include protected species, places, and key ecological features (e.g. seamounts).

AFAs are being used to narrow down the areas where marine reserves will be established. Stakeholder consultation on the AFAs helps the government try to avoid areas that are particularly important for commercial and recreational users.

Q2. Why have AFAs been developed?

AFAs are being used to gather more information on the biological, physical and socioeconomic uses of parts of the East Marine Region. This makes the job of identifying potential marine reserve locations easier than looking at the entire East Marine Region. AFAs provide an opportunity for stakeholders to help inform the design of future marine reserves prior to the release of a draft Marine Bioregional Plan that will include the Governments proposals for marine reserves.

Q3. Why do you need to protect the East Marine Region?

All Australian governments agreed to the development of a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA) by 2012.

Governments are seeking to incorporate representative samples of marine habitats into a NRSMPA to protect the biological diversity of those habitats.

This approach is reflected in the Australian Governments Goals and Principles for the Establishment of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas which are guiding the design of Commonwealth marine reserves through the marine bioregional planning program. These Goals and Principles are published in the Marine Bioregional Profile for the East Marine Region bioregional-profile.html.

Q4. How did you decide on what areas should be designated as AFAs?

A range of information was used. This included information about the diversity and location of habitats, key features, species ranges and the extent of existing uses. This information has assisted in selecting areas that meet the Goals and principles for the establishment of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas in Commonwealth Waters (Goals and Principles). For more detail go to general/goals-nrsmpa.html

Q5. Why do AFAs extend into some fishing grounds?

AFAs are representative of key habitats and associated species important to the biodiversity of the East Marine Region. Conservation values represented in the AFAs include seamounts, canyons, and reefs, which provide habitat for many species. Some of these areas include fishing grounds due to these habitats.

Q6. How much of the AFAs will be closed to fishing?

AFAs will be used to gather more information on the biological, physical and socioeconomic uses of parts of the East Marine Region. AFAs are areas in which we will look for potential reserve locations. In designing the marine reserves the government will be aiming to strike a balance between multiple use and highly protected areas. Some areas within future marine reserves will be highly protected, or so-called no-take areas. Others areas will be multiple use and allow for activities such as fishing, as long as the activities can be done without having an unsustainable impact on the marine environment.

Q7. Why not have the AFAs further offshore, so it won't force fishing boats to go further offshore and use more fuel?

To meet the Goals and Principles we need to ensure examples of all the broadly similar ecological regions (described by scientists as provincial bioregions) are adequately represented. This means some areas closer to the coast and of higher use have been included in this process.

Q8. What information do you seek to gather using AFAs?

The Department is gathering and analysing State and Commonwealth fishing catch and effort data, as well as stakeholder information such as individual and fishery specific fine scale catch and effort data, Indigenous traditional knowledge, and important areas for recreational use.

Q9. Why is the Coral Sea Conservation Zone (CSCZ) not an AFA? Will the CSCZ be assessed in the same way as AFAs?

The Government declared the CSCZ as an interim measure to protect this area while a detailed assessment of the region is undertaken. The CSCZ will continue to be assessed as a whole, consistent with requirements of conservations zones under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.1999 (EPBC Act).

Assessment of the CSCZ will be undertaken consistent with the marine bioregional planning process for the East Marine Region. While it will be assessed as a whole, there is no plan to establish it as one huge no-take marine park.

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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