6 October 2006
Australia will be taking a strong stand to protect marine biodiversity at this year's United Nations General Assembly. In a new proposal, Australia will call for an immediate ban on bottom trawling in unmanaged areas of the high seas and tougher regulation and scrutiny of fishing practices which could have destructive impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems.
Australia is concerned about the potential impacts of a range of fishing practices on fragile areas of the high seas, such as seamounts. Australia's new position calls on regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) to implement and enforce measures that will prevent destruction to vulnerable marine ecosystems. This would include a ban on potentially destructive fishing practices unless it can be shown scientifically that the activity will not cause damage to fragile marine ecosystems, such as seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold water corals. Under our plan, RFMOs have until December next year to take action.
For RFMOs currently under development, States would have until just July next year to regulate fishing practices which have a destructive impact on vulnerable marine ecosystems or a ban applies.
Deep-sea corals. Photo: CSIRO
In areas where no RFMO currently exists or is being developed, an immediate ban on bottom trawling would apply. In all cases, States and RFMOs would be required to develop and implement compliance and enforcement measures to give force to prohibitions. This means that fishing nations will need to develop and implement national and regional measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems as a matter of priority.
Australia has strong credentials in oceans and fisheries management. We have already moved to protect seamounts within our exclusive economic zone to the south-east of Tasmania and have recently developed a series of new marine protected areas. About one-third of the world's marine protected areas are now in Australian waters. In addition, Australia will continue our fight to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The new Marine Bioregional Planning brochure
New information on the Australian Government's programme of marine bioregional planning is now available on the Department of the Environment and Heritage website at www.deh.gov.au/mbp.
The website explains how the marine bioregional planning process works, and features pages for each of Australia’s marine regions. These pages will be a key resource for all ocean stakeholders, and will be updated over the duration of the planning process.
The website also features a new brochure about marine bioregional planning. The brochure can be downloaded from www.deh.gov.au/coasts/mbp/publications/mbp-brochure.html or ordered from the Community Information Unit, email: email@example.com or freecall: 1800 803 772.
The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, has released the review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. This review delivers on an Australian Government election commitment to review the Act to improve the performance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, its office holders and its accountability frameworks.
A feather star on a reef slope Photo: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
The review panel consulted with a wide range of stakeholders and heard a diverse range of views. The review panel considered 227 submissions and held 36 consultations.
The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the Government supported the review's recommendations. Importantly, these include:
- no alterations to the current zoning plan for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for a minimum of seven years.
- the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will continue to be based in Townsville and work closely with local communities and businesses.
- the Great Barrier Reef Consultative Committee will be reconstituted as an Advisory Board reporting directly to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage.
- an Outlook Report will be published every five years documenting the overall condition of the Marine Park, effectiveness of management and the risks and pressures on the ecosystem. The Report will be subject to peer review by an expert panel appointed by the Minister.
Minister Campbell said "The Government will ensure the current zoning plan remains in place until at least 2013 to provide for business and community certainty.
"The zoning plan process will be made more accountable and transparent. Any future decision to review a zoning plan will be made by the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage who will also ensure that the process by which a review is undertaken is based on comprehensive scientific and socio-economic information, and community consultation."
Minister Campbell said "I reaffirm the Australian Government's commitment to protect this national treasure.
"The Queensland Government is intrinsic to the future management of the Great Barrier Reef especially if threats to the Reef from catchment to coast are to be managed effectively. The current intergovernmental agreement needs to be updated to meet these future challenges."
The review focused on updating the regulatory, governance and accountability frameworks and consultative mechanisms required for the long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef, and the impact of the landmark Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Minister Campbell said the review was conducted following the implementation of the Representative Areas Programme which dramatically increased protection of the Great Barrier Reef's marine life and diversity, and also provided a generous adjustment package to help affected fishing industries and communities adjust to zoning changes.
"I recognise that the implementation of the zoning plan has been difficult for some sectors of the community" the Minister said.
"The review has shown that there are still important lessons to be learned in protecting the marine environment, and implementing these recommendations will ensure future transparency and accountability. This should go a long way towards addressing concerns raised by the fishing industry - particularly the need to strengthen planning processes."
The review panel was chaired by the Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, David Borthwick, with Barbara Belcher, First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Jonathan Hutson, General Manager, Department of Finance and Administration.
For a copy of the review report see http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/publications/gbr-marine-park-act.html
The first comprehensive national atlas of fishing activity in Australia provides a powerful tool for decision makers working in the marine and coastal environment.
The Marine Matters National Atlas
The Atlas of Australian Marine Fishing and Coastal Communities was launched last week. It provides decision makers with a credible scientific resource for informing current and future marine and coastal planning decisions.
It shows where fish are caught in Australia’s oceans, the value of those catches and also provides information on coastal communities that depend to some extent on fishing activity.
The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the Atlas would be an important resource for all marine stakeholders involved in the Australian Government's marine planning in Commonwealth waters.
"This Atlas will be invaluable for all those involved in the development of our world-leading Marine Bioregional Plans, and will be an information source for anyone with an interest in Australia's marine estate," Senator Campbell said.
"For the best management of our ocean resources we need the latest information. This Atlas brings together data from a wide range of sources in one easily accessible publication.
"For information on commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishing in Australian waters, there is no better guide and I am delighted to see it made publicly available."
Marine Matters was produced by the Bureau of Rural Sciences with support from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage and fisheries agencies from around Australia.
The publication is complemented by an online set of resources, databases and mapping tools accessible at www.brs.gov.au/fishcoast
Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities across Northern Australia are working together to develop community-based plans for the sustainable management of dugong and marine turtles.
Coordinated by the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) the project brings together the Kimberley Land Council, Northern Land Council, Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, Torres Strait Regional Authority and many of their constituent communities, along with government and non-government agencies, researchers and industry stakeholders to work toward the goal of healthy and sustainable populations of dugong and marine turtles in Northern Australian waters that support Indigenous livelihoods.
Brendan Chaquabor, Celia Chaquabor and Kevin Dougal, fishing at One Arm point. (photo courtesy of Kimberly Land Council)
With funding of $3.8 million over 2.5 years from the Natural Heritage Trust, and cash and in-kind contributions from partners and participating communities of over $3 million, the project represents a substantial commitment by all involved.
Participating communities have developed Regional Activity Plans (RAPs) that identify Traditional Owners needs and aspirations, the issues and threats facing dugong and turtles and the management and research activities they wish to undertake. Despite the geographic spread of the project and the social and cultural diversity of the communities involved, the RAPs share many common themes including:
- The importance of Indigenous Knowledge as the basis for community management plans;
- Partnerships between Indigenous communities, researchers, government and industry;
- Capacity building for Indigenous rangers and land managers; and
- The need for better knowledge about dugong and marine turtles;
For some communities such as the Bardi Jawi on the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome, the project is fulfilling their long held aspirations to establish a ranger organisation. “At the moment we are recruiting community rangers, developing a works program, and starting to document the cultural and ecological knowledge of the Bardi, Jawi and Mayala Traditional Owners,” says Daniel Oades, Dugong and Turtle project facilitator in the Kimberly region.
Project participants have also recognised the need to ensure that Traditional Owners have a voice in government decision making. As part of the project, Torres Strait Islanders have recently been involved in discussions with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority in their assessment of Torres Strait Traditional Fisheries. As Lachlan Sutherland, Dugong and Turtle project facilitator in the Torres Strait explains “Community-based management - such as that being developed by the NAILSMA Dugong and Marine Turtle project - is the most effective means of management. This project provides communities with resources and technical support to fulfil their traditional management responsibilities. However, it will be critical to ensure that communities’ efforts are appropriately supported into the future for implementation and enforcement of community management plans.”
Further information: Dr. Rod Kennett firstname.lastname@example.org or (08) 8946 6271
or visit www.nailsma.org.au
Nominations for the $5000 Minister's Award for Coastal Custodians 2006 are now open. The national winner will be announced during Coastcare Week in early December 2006.
More details about the Minister's Award including eligibility criteria can be found at
Entries close on Friday, 10 November 2006.