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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Our Sea, Our Future
Major findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia

Compiled by Leon P. Zann
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville Queensland

Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra (1995)
ISBN 0 642 17391 5

6. Marine conservation and marine protected areas - continued

Marine environmental management strategies

The main strategies for marine environmental management in Australia include:

Figure 117

Figure 117: Very little of Australia's marine environment is protected. (a) A tentative biogeographic regionilisation of Australia by ACIUCN. A 'representative' system of marine protected areas aims to protect significant areas of each 'bioregion'. (b) The numbers of marine protected areas in each bioregion (dark bars, bottom axis). The total area of each bioregion (sq km) and the proportion (%) of each bioregion protected is given at the right. Only the Great Barrier Reef and adjacent North East Coast are well protected (100%). Most marine bioregions have minimal or no protection.

Marine protected areas

A marine protected area (MPA) is any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment.(67)

Figure 118: The 'multiple-use' Great Barrier Marine Park allows commercial and recreational fishing, tourisms, research, traditional hunting and other activities. This is part of the zoning plan for the Cairns Section.

Figure 118

Figure 118 : The 'multiple-use' Great Barrier Marine Park allows commercial and recreational fishing, tourisms, research, traditional hunting and other activities.This is part of the zoning plan for the Cairns Section.

Marine protected areas are a very important tool for marine conservation and management, particularly in protecting biodiversity, and achieving sustainable use of marine resources (15),(67). Establishing a national network of marine protected areas around Australia is a primary objective of the Ocean Rescue 2000 program (67),(68),(83).

MPAs may serve many functions including conserving nature, protecting commercial fisheries resources, protecting human heritage and providing tourism, recreation, education and research opportunities. (67-82)

Australia is a world leader in using MPAs for marine conservation and management and has 24% of the total number of MPAs in the world.(67)

In 1992 Australia had 303 MPAs totalling an area of 463,200 square kilometres. About 5.2% of Australia's marine environment is protected in MPAs. However, a very large proportion of this, 74%, is within a single MPA, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The number of MPAs has increased by almost 60% in the past decade. However, large sections of Australia's marine environment still have few or no MPAs.(67)

Most MPAs are on the east coast of Australia, and especially along the Queensland coast. There are more MPAs south of the tropics (175 as opposed to 98), but the area protected in the tropics is more than ten times greater than that in the south. Most MPAs in the southern and eastern half of the continent are small, yet this is where human activity is greatest and the demand for conservation action is highest. The largest MPAs tend to be away from the areas of highest human activity.(67)

How much of the sea should be reserved in MPAs?

We do not yet know what amount of sea should be set aside in MPAs, what size they should be, and where these MPAs should be placed. However, MPAs that are established to maintain biodiversity should be sufficiently large to maintain ecosystem function, to protect all life cycle stages and to achieve adequate buffering or dilution of the impacts from human activities.(67) Where appropriate, MPAs might also be placed adjacent to land protected areas, and managed in a complementary manner(69).

The minimum viable size of a biodiversity MPA is likely to be much larger than the minimum viable size of a terrestrial reserve. The Brundtland Report (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987(97)) recommended that 8% of the world's land and freshwater areas be set aside in protected areas.