Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments
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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.
Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 6422 4868 0
Australia's marine and coastal environments are a priceless national asset. Rich in natural and cultural resources, Australia's marine and coastal environments support most of the nation's population and are also the focus of much of Australia's economic, social, tourism and recreational activity.
Sound management of marine and coastal environments is of profound importance to the maintenance of many of Australia's important ecological systems as well as to the socio-economic development of the nation as a whole and the Australian way of life.
In Australia, responsibility for management of the coastal zone, its resources and the offshore waters, is shared between three spheres of government: Commonwealth (federal), State/Territory and Local.
State and Territory Governments have primary responsibility and authority for managing most coastal land and inshore waters up to three nautical miles. Most States and Territories have legislation, policies or guidelines specific to coastal management. In addition, there is a plethora of State legislation and policies relating to water supply, agriculture, mining, fishing and other activities with importance for coastal management. Planning and environmental protection legislation is used in all States to control development in the coastal zone.
The majority of States are undergoing some form of review of their coastal management systems to identify problem areas and options for coastal management reform. Several States are currently developing new legislation or planning policies as a result of their review process. For example in Victoria, the Victorian Coastal and Bay Management Council has been established under the Coastal Management Act 1995 to define a new set of priorities for planning and use of Victoria's coastline. The Coast Action Community Participation Program promotes community involvement to protect and better utilise the State's 2000 kilometres of coastline. Ongoing structural reform has also resulted in key coastal management programs being consolidated within one portfolio to improve program delivery. In Queensland, the Coastal Protection and Management Act provides for the protection and management of the coast and is designed to implement the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
Local Government is also an important sphere of government in bringing about ecologically sustainable management of the coasts and inland waters. Local Governments are empowered under State legislation to make by-laws and administer certain activities within their area. Such powers and responsibilities vary significantly depending on the legislative powers delegated by each State Government. Local Government has a major role in coastal zone management as it is often the major day to day manager of beaches and coastal lands. In particular, it is at the local level that detailed land use planning decisions impinging on the coast are made and development control is carried out. In some States, Local Government can also be called on to provide infrastructure like roads and drainage, as well as beach front facilities.
The division between State and Local Government responsibilities for coastal planning and management is often bridged by strategic regional planning initiatives. Regional plans are generally non-statutory, providing guidance for the future direction of state and local government planning within a region. They often provide an important link between state-wide policies and plans and those created at a local level. There is usually a strong element of community involvement in the preparation of regional plans. Recent examples of regional plans with a strong coastal focus include the South East Queensland 2001 Strategy, the Western Australian Central Coast Planning Strategy, and the Tasmanian East Coast Strategy.
While State/Territory and Local Governments are responsible for coastal lands and inland waters, the Commonwealth Government is primarily responsible for management of the seabed and waters from the three nautical mile limit to the edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone (Map) (generally 200 nautical miles). Commonwealth legislation relating to coastal zone management is mostly indirect. The Commonwealth has direct responsibilities for lighthouses, light ships, beacons and buoys, as well as fisheries in Australian waters beyond three nautical miles. The Commonwealth can also pursue environmental objectives for managing the coastal and marine environments where Australia has obligations arising under international conventions and agreements, and by exercising control over the export or import of resources and/or foreign investment. The Commonwealth also has jurisdiction over the external territories, and areas reserved for activities such as defence and transport purposes.
Achieving ecologically sustainable development of the marine and coastal environments is beyond the capabilities of any one sphere of government on its own. Australian Governments recognise that ecologically sustainable use of marine and coastal environments involves all three spheres of government working cooperatively with each other, with industry and with the community. Appropriate agreements are developed from time to time to enhance coordinated management of the coast.
Australia is committed to ecologically sustainable development and to implementing Agenda 21 for both current and future generations. Australian Governments have initiated and implemented a range of policies aimed at achieving sustainable management of the marine environment and its resources, within Australian territorial waters, regionally, and internationally. This chapter provides information about the key policies which Australian Governments have put in place relating to the issues raised in Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 on oceans, in particular:
The Australian coastline is about 36 700 kilometres long. The coastal zone and adjacent marine environment contains a wide range of climatic, geological and oceanographic regions which house a very rich store of biological diversity. There is a diverse and interacting mixture of terrestrial, estuarine and marine ecosystems, ranging from coral reefs to coastal forests, which directly or indirectly provide many of the resources needed for a broad range of commercial and non-commercial uses and activities. The coastal zone also contains the largest area of coral reefs and the third-largest area of mangroves of any nation, and it has globally significant populations of a number of endangered species.
The coastal zone supports about eighty per cent of Australia's total population, including nearly half of the nation's Indigenous people. In the past twenty years the zone has witnessed significant increases in population, development and tourism. About half of Australia's total population growth during this period has occurred in non metropolitan parts of the coastal zone, particularly in places along the eastern seaboard and the south-west of the Australian continent.
The coastal zone is especially significant because it contains a high proportion of the resources used to produce goods and services. Provision of land, sea and air transport facilities is a major activity in the zone, as is the provision of other infrastructure associated with the production and consumption of goods and services. It is also the area providing the highest proportion of recreational and tourism opportunities in Australia. The coastal zone is subject to severe and extreme natural events, including storms, cyclones and surges which are a significant hazard to human life, coastal development and parts of the marine environment.
Any general curtailment of development in the coastal zone is not an option that can reasonably be pursued as it would have serious implications for the Australian economy and the welfare of all Australians. On the other hand, if nothing is done to protect the coast there will be an increased risk of permanent damage that will significantly affect the standard of living in Australia and the future amenity of coastal ecosystems. The challenge is to manage the use of the coast in a sustainable way so that undesirable impacts are minimised.
Inquiries into coastal management have repeatedly identified two main barriers to effective management for sustainable use of Australia's coastal zone:
These problems are often most evident in areas experiencing rapid population growth and associated development.
There is widespread acknowledgement among the Commonwealth Government and State and Local Governments, industry, Aboriginal land managers, and the community in general of the need for decision-making that is integrated and takes a long term or strategic approach to problems. The need for integration is made more urgent by the fact that the coastal zone spans land and marine areas that are interrelated and because three spheres of government are involved in its management. Widespread adoption of integrated and strategic approaches by agencies dealing with the coastal zone is critical to effective coastal management and to overcoming the problems associated with fragmented and piecemeal decision-making. For wise decision-making, it is important that there is a good knowledge base of the resources in the coastal environment and an understanding of the processes operating on and within that environment. This requires research, data gathering, collation and assessment, and the provision of this information to decision makers in an appropriate form.
The Commonwealth Coastal Policy. One important initiative is the Commonwealth Coastal Policy, entitled Living on the Coast. This policy was developed through an Intergovernmental Coastal Working Group established under the Intergovernmental Committee for Ecologically Sustainable Development (ICESD) to develop a national response to address coastal zone management issues. Living on the Coast provides a framework within which the activities of the Commonwealth Government and its agencies that may have an impact on the coastal zone will be developed and implemented. The policy identifies a range of initiatives that will be undertaken by the Commonwealth, in cooperation with State and Local Governments, to help improve the management of the coastal zone. These arrangements are being given effect through memoranda of understanding between the spheres of government.
One important initiative is the identification of a range of principles consistent with Australia's National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development to guide the decisions and actions of Commonwealth departments and agencies related to the coastal zone, and to help achieve an integrated, sustainable approach by these agencies to coastal zone management.
New Commonwealth policy initiatives in the coastal zone will be consistent with these principles. They will also be applied in any review of existing Commonwealth policies and programs that have an impact on the coastal zone. The establishment of guiding principles for use by government agencies will help to integrate government coastal management activities. It will also help to ensure that government decisions affecting the use of the coastal zone are more open, consistent and systematic.
These principles are not mutually exclusive; rather, they reflect the need to balance competing values in order to achieve ecologically sustainable development. No single principle is considered predominant. Terms such as 'use' and 'development' include within their meaning the use and management of resources for conservation purposes.
Involving the Community in Coastal Management. Government actions alone cannot bring about improvement in the way the coastal zone is managed. All people who use the coastal zone individuals, community groups, governments and industry need to play an active role in maintaining the quality of the coastal environment.
Many community groups, ranging from local ratepayer associations, to conservation groups and sporting clubs, already play an active role in managing the coastal zone through activities such as Clean Up Australia Day, Seaweek, and projects to rehabilitate local beaches or wetlands. It is important to ensure that such activities affecting the coastal zone are integrated and are consistent with local or regional management plans. To further support direct community involvement in coastal management, the Australian Government has established and begun to implement the Coastcare program in collaboration with State and Local Governments.
Australia is the world's largest island and its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (Map) (EEZ) covers nine million square kilometres of sea (an area sixteen percent larger than Australia's land surface). Its marine environments include extensive coral reefs in the tropical north, rocky shores in the temperate south, sandy beaches, estuaries and bays, seagrass beds and mangrove forests. It has some of the most diverse, unique and spectacular marine life in the world.
Australia's marine environment is under increasing pressure. Pressures include over-fishing in some areas, wastes and run-off from the land affecting bays, inlets and estuaries, oil pollution and increasing beach and ocean litter. Further, while marine and coastal habitats are in danger of degradation, increasing numbers of people are using the sea and coastal environment for food, income and recreation.
Managing marine resources for sustainable use is extremely important for Australia. A significant proportion of our gross domestic product is derived from the marine environment, particularly through the fishing, tourism, petroleum and mineral industries. The health of the ocean and the diversity of biological marine resources are important for both ecological and economic reasons.
In recognition of the importance of marine areas, the Australian Government has embarked on a program to improve their conservation. In 1991, the Australian Government established Ocean Rescue 2000, a ten year program to protect the marine environment. In cooperation with the States and Territories, the Australian Government has developed important initiatives through the Ocean Rescue 2000 program that lay the foundations for ecologically sustainable management of the marine environment by the year 2000.
The Ocean Rescue 2000 program is designed to facilitate a national approach to the conservation, sustainable use and management of Australia's marine environment and resources. The program builds on existing activities in the marine and coastal environment and actively involves government, business and the community in the conservation, sustainable use and management of our marine environment. The Ocean Rescue 2000 program has a number of interrelated components.
The Australian Marine Conservation Plan. The primary objective of the Ocean Rescue 2000 program is to develop and implement a National Marine Conservation Plan based on the principles of ecologically sustainable development, in consultation with State, Territory and Local Governments and the community. The plan will provide an overall framework for the conservation and sustainable use of Australia's marine environment, including the recently declared EEZ, into the next century. It will identify management strategies for the full range of activities affecting the sustainable use of the marine environment.
National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. One major component of the Ocean Rescue 2000 program is the establishment of a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. The term 'marine protected areas' is defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as 'any area of inter-tidal or sub-tidal 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'.
A marine protected area (MPA) is a part of the marine environment that has been set aside through legislation to protect the plants, animals and cultural features in that area. MPAs are used to protect marine habitats and the marine life they contain and can include underwater areas close to the coast or in the deep oceans. They also allow resource use consistent with this management objective for they provide places for recreation, tourism, education, scientific research and conservation of biological diversity, and they can offer significant benefits to recreational and commercial fisheries by protecting fish habitats and breeding areas.
Marine protected areas cannot be fenced off from harmful impacts. Sea currents carry sediments, nutrients, pollutants and organisms throughout an area. Winds and tides mix waters so that events happening in one area may affect populations tens or hundreds of kilometres away. Things that happen on the nearby land can also affect the marine environment. Therefore there needs to be considerable cooperation and coordination between the agencies that look after these adjoining areas - land and marine managers, and the Commonwealth Government and State/Territory and Local Governments.
Natural resource managers, scientists and politicians throughout the world have been promoting the establishment of a global system of MPAs. There are now over 1000 MPAs in the world. With over 300, Australia currently has the most MPAs, almost a third of the world's total. Since 1984, the number of MPAs in Australia has more than doubled and the area included in MPAs has increased by twenty-six per cent. Approximately 5.2 per cent of Australia's marine environment is now protected in MPAs. However, a very large proportion of the existing MPA area (seventy-four per cent) is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, only about one per cent of our marine environment is protected. Large sections of our seas have few or no MPAs. For example, temperate reefs and southern waters in general, have very important economic and conservation values but only a small proportion of these environments are included in MPAs, and most of these are tiny. More MPAs are needed to adequately protect the different types of marine and coastal areas throughout Australia.
Through the Ocean Rescue 2000 program the Australian Government is working with the State and Territory Governments to expand the existing system of marine parks and reserves to be representative of the variety of marine environments within Australia's EEZ. The establishment of a representative system will ensure there are more marine protected areas in under-represented areas of Australia. This is particularly so for the temperate areas which are the habitat of many endemic marine species. Financial support is being provided to the States and Commonwealth agencies to develop a national biogeographic marine regionalisation to act as the planning framework to guide the identification of new areas and to assist in their establishment.
State of the Marine Environment Report. The State of the Marine Environment Report, released in early 1995, comprehensively describes and assesses the current state of knowledge of Australia's marine environment and resources and the impact of human activities. It describes the marine environment of Australia, including past and current human use, as well as identifying key gaps in our information about the marine environment.
The baseline data provided by the State of the Marine Environment Report support a number of the other Ocean Rescue 2000 program activities, including the development of the Australian Marine Conservation Plan, the establishment of a national representative system of marine protected areas, and the national marine education program. It will also be invaluable for future marine environment reporting.
Marine and Coastal Community Network. Another important element of the Ocean Rescue 2000 program is the development of communications networks between users and managers of the marine environment. The Marine and Coastal Community Network is a national, non-government, community-based network which aims to encourage and facilitate community support for the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia's marine and coastal environments. It aims to identify and facilitate liaison amongst community, industry and other user groups and individuals with interest in the marine and coastal environments, and to ensure community involvement in Ocean Rescue 2000 program initiatives and marine and coastal activities generally.
The network also promotes understanding and awareness throughout the community of current and potential impacts on our marine and coastal systems and of the need to manage human activities to ensure that conservation and long-term ecologically sustainable use of marine and coastal ecosystems can be achieved.
The bulk of Australia's population lives in coastal areas, and there is a continuing trend towards its concentration in these regions. The health and well-being of coastal communities depend upon the health and well being of coastal ecosystems - bays, inlets, estuaries and wetlands, as well as their associated watersheds and drainage basins and near-shore coastal waters. Ultimately, sustainable patterns of human activity in coastal areas depend upon a healthy marine environment, and vice-versa.
The major threats to the health and productivity of the marine environment result from human activities on land in coastal areas and further inland. Discharges of nutrients and sediments from catchments as a result of poor land management practices have also impacted on coastal areas. Most of the pollution load of the oceans, including municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes, marine debris, and runoff, as well as atmospheric deposition, emanates from such land-based activities and affects the most productive areas of the marine environment, including estuaries and near-shore coastal waters. These areas are likewise threatened by physical alteration of the coastal environment, including destruction of habitats of vital importance for marine species. Moreover, contaminants which pose risks to human health and living resources may be transported long distances by watercourses, ocean currents and atmospheric processes. The cumulative effect of ever-increasing human activity and economic development on coastal land has resulted in a growing burden on marine ecosystems. Soil and nutrient loads following vegetation clearing and overgrazing within catchments are also major threats.
Improved management of water discharges (including effluent, urban and agricultural run-off and trade waste water) into the coastal environment is one of the major challenges facing Australian Governments and is essential for maintaining and improving marine and estuarine water quality, coastal habitats, public health, recreation and visual amenity.
The Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ) and the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) agreed to pursue the sustainable use of the nation's water resources by protecting and enhancing their quality while maintaining economic and social development. This objective is being pursued through the National Water Quality Strategy (NWQMS) which is based on high-status national guidelines with local implementation.
In the development of this strategy ARMCANZ and ANZECC have given priority to the development of: a policy and management framework for water quality management; a review of drinking water guidelines; guidelines for the management of sewerage systems; guidelines for water quality management in the rural environment and guidelines for water quality including national criteria. Other important matters being addressed under the NWQMS include the development of guidelines for groundwater protection and for the management of urban stormwater as well as effluent management guidelines for specific industries.
The Australian Government takes this challenge seriously and played an active role in the preparation of the United Nations Environment Programme Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (as detailed later in this chapter).
In Australia, EIA operates to protect the marine environment through legislation at the Commonwealth, State and Territory Government level.
Under the Offshore Constitutional Settlement between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories of Australia, responsibility rests with the States and Northern Territory for the area from the mean low water mark to the three nautical mile limit. The assessment of the environmental impacts of proposals within this zone is generally conducted in accordance with the relevant State and Territory legislative requirements.
The Commonwealth Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 (EPIP Act) requires the assessment of proposals involving Commonwealth decisions or actions which are 'environmentally significant'. The purpose of the EPIP Act is to provide Commonwealth decision makers with guidance as to the matters of environmental significance which need to be taken into account in development proposals. Consequently, the EPIP Act applies to Commonwealth decisions and proposals on Commonwealth lands or waters including those located beyond the three nautical mile limit but within the 200 nautical mile EEZ.
Progress has been made toward the establishment of a National Agreement on Environmental Impact Assessment through ANZECC. The draft Agreement, which is currently being finalised, sets out the framework for the administration of the environmental impact assessment process for proposals which involve or may involve more than one government in Australia. The agreement outlines measures for the cooperative assessment of proposals which have environmentally significant effects extending across the three nautical mile limit.
ANZECC has also developed Guidelines and Criteria for Determining the Need for and Level of Environmental Impact Assessment in Australia which includes references to 'environmentally sensitive marine localities' and marine parks. The ANZECC papers, Maritime Accidents and Pollution: Impacts on the Marine Environment from Shipping Operations and Working Together to Reduce Impacts from Shipping Operations: ANZECC Strategy to Protect the Marine Environment, have identified that there may be cases where the current EIA process may not, and should, apply to some proposals, such as those involving technological advances in ship design or speed, in certain areas or regions. It has been suggested that a broader assessment process in consultation with interested parties may be an appropriate mechanism to ensure adequate EIA for matters of national or international significance. The paper supports the movement toward the EIA process being applied to new policies and proposals which involve shipping and ancillary services which are likely to cause environmental impacts. It also recommends that EIA address the long-term impacts of innovations in marine technology such as very fast vessels, and new types of marine traffic in specific areas.
A more cumulative and strategic approach to environmental impact assessment is being investigated as part of the Commonwealth Government's review of the Commonwealth EIA process. One example is the assessment of the release of offshore acreage for petroleum exploration which may be undertaken on a strategic basis rather than on an individual petroleum exploration proposal basis.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Australia's jurisdiction over the Australian Fishing Zone was established in 1979 and over its EEZ in November 1994. Australia is fully aware of its responsibilities under international law for conserving the living marine resources in its zones and promoting their optimum use.
Fisheries resources in Australia are managed by the Commonwealth Government and the State and Territory Governments. Generally, the Commonwealth Government manages the offshore and highly migratory fish stocks while the State and Territory Governments manage the inshore fisheries. Fisheries management in Australia has focused on controls and regulations to limit the harvest of target species to sustainable levels. Realising that the focus on target species was somewhat narrow, all governments in Australia in 1992 formally adopted the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) in fisheries management. The scope of legislation Australia-wide has now been broadened to encompass environmental, economic and social objectives. In many States new legislation cast within this framework provides for the preparation of management plans for specific fisheries, for the management of noxious species and for the management of fish reserves.
In Australia, ecologically sustainable development is embodied in the ongoing development, implementation and review of fishery management plans for commercial fishing activity. Fishery management plans typically include measures such as strict limits on the number and size of boats licensed to fish, limits on length of nets and mesh size, seasonal and area closures, and in some cases, limits on the quantity of fish caught. These plans share a common objective; to conduct fishing within acceptable biological, ecological and economic constraints. This requires flexible management arrangements that allow the industry to adjust to changing environmental and economic circumstances. For this reason Australia generally does not use programs of subsidies and industry assistance since this typically 'locks in' excess boats and gear which then leads to over-fishing of stocks and economic hardship for communities reliant on fishing.
To build ESD principles successfully into fisheries management plans, Australian managers have established data and information systems and consultative arrangements. Management decisions are based on available scientific information such as stock assessments, economic viability of operators, new technological developments, environmental indicators and, increasingly, the impact of fishing on non-target species and the wider aquatic environment.
When considering these factors and other information for a fishery, extensive consultations are undertaken with all major stakeholders and those who might be affected by changes to management plans. All Commonwealth and State fisheries agencies have their own consultative structures such as management advisory committees, but their roles, objectives and method of operation are similar. Membership of these committees typically includes an independent chairperson, scientists with expertise in fish stocks and the marine environment, commercial and recreational fishers, other representatives from the community who may have particular interests in the fishery and fishery managers. Draft management plans are available for public scrutiny and comment as the process of development is open and transparent.
Working within the ESD framework, fisheries management in Australia seeks to fulfil the need to provide human nutritional needs through domestic and international markets while at the same time maintain the resource in a healthy and productive state for future generations. Adoption of ESD principles has lead to many changes in how our management agencies operate and the number of factors which they must examine and consider. The ambit of concerns now ranges from the impact of fishing itself on non-target species and the aquatic environment to the use of fish stocks by others.
In addition to commercial fishing, managers in Australia are now giving increasing attention to fishing by both recreational anglers and Indigenous peoples. Recognising that within the ESD framework fisheries must be managed as whole systems, the integration of all user activities into fisheries management plans is beginning to take place.
Around one quarter of the Australian population goes fishing at least once a year. In the heavily populated areas around the major cities and estuaries, the impact of recreational fishing can be significant and in many instances fisheries management agencies have now introduced regulations and restrictions to lessen the impact of this recreational fishing. To help guide fisheries agencies and angling interests in managing the impact of recreational fishing, the Commonwealth Government and State/Territory Governments, in close cooperation with the recreational sector, developed and published the document Recreational Fishing in Australia: A National Policy (1995). The policy contains key objectives and principles and provides guidance on resource and habitat protection, the role of governments, community involvement, resource sharing, codes of practice, education and compliance, information systems and how special programs might be funded.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in the coastal zone and undertake fishing for subsistence, commercial and traditional reasons. All fisheries management agencies in Australia have provisions in their legislation to cater in their management plans for these special interests. In the Northern Territory, for example, the licensing arrangements in the Fisheries Act protect the rights to traditional fishing for Aboriginal people to provide community food needs as well as providing for a specific category of commercial licence. Aboriginal people play a part in commercial activities with interests in barramundi, crab, coastal line and the pearl oyster fisheries.
The Commonwealth Government in partnership with the Queensland Government plays a major role in Indigenous fisheries management in the Torres Strait. Specific fisheries legislation and an international treaty has greatly assisted in the implementation of ESD principles and objectives in this area.
Fisheries management agencies throughout Australia use a variety of techniques to implement their management plans and sustainable fishing. Plans based on 'input' controls primarily use restrictions on fishing gear such as the length and mesh size of nets, the size and engine capacity of boats, area closures, seasonal closures and time restrictions. Where appropriate, some plans are based on 'output' controls where the first step is to set the aggregate or ' total allowable catch' (TAC) for the fishery based on stock assessments and sustainability criteria. The TAC is divided between all operators in parcels known as ' individual transferable quotas' or ITQs. The ITQ is the quantitative limit on the amount of fish that an individual operator can catch during the fishing year. This form of access right can readily be bought and sold which then allows operators much more choice in deciding what mix of boat size, fishing gear and fishing time is best for their individual circumstances. This encourages greater economic efficiency in how the catch is taken and better meets the objective of integrating biological, environmental and economic considerations.
A well managed and good example of an input controlled fishery is western rock lobster. Here the Western Australian authorities and the commercial industry have a long history of combining extensive research and time series data with controls on pot numbers, boat sizes, lobster sizes, limits on the taking of females and fixed fishing seasons. These measures have lead to an annual catch that can be sustained by the fishery.
The Commonwealth manages several of its fisheries using the ITQ system and some State Governments have recently introduced similar measures. In South Australia for example, ITQs introduced to the rock lobster fishery have resulted in a reduction of nearly twenty per cent in the average number of fishing days. This has significantly enhanced the sustainability of this fishery and at the same time reduced the cost of fishing.
With the broadening of fisheries management to accommodate the wider environmental and habitat considerations, multiple use or zoning of marine resources is increasingly becoming a part of fisheries management in Australia. Multiple use can range from areas deemed off limits to almost all forms of human activity to areas zoned for general use purposes including trawling and other forms of commercial fishing. Careful zoning within marine ecosystems protects the fish breeding and nursery grounds and with adequate buffer zones around these designated areas can increase the output from the fishery on a sustainable basis.
The Commonwealth Government and the commercial fishing industry recently agreed to provide interim protection for an area of deep water seamounts off southern Tasmania which provide habitat for a diverse range of little known fauna. Research to be undertaken over the next three years will determine the ecological significance of this faunal assemblage. The need for permanent protection for the seamounts area will be decided in light of the outcome of the investigations.
The State of New South Wales has made significant advances in the establishment of marine and estuarine protected areas (MEPAs) over the past decade or so. There are currently twenty-two MEPAs in New South Wales waters including seven aquatic reserves, one marine reserve and fourteen terrestrial national parks and nature reserves with marine components. Employing the zoning concept, uses of these areas range from 'sanctuary' zones, where all activities involving the removal of natural resources is prohibited, to 'general use' zones which allow commercial extractive activities on a managed basis as demonstrated in the following case study.
Both fishers and fisheries managers in Australia are aware of the unintended impact that fishing can have on the environment, for example, the incidental catch of other species, or bycatch, and the impact of fishing litter and debris. In most fisheries, efforts are now in place to either reduce bycatch or to find new uses for what has traditionally been thrown away. Bycatch becomes a management problem when it threatens the survival of the bycatch species, the survival of the target species or adversely affects the marine environment through distortions to predator/prey interactions and damage to habitats such as corals, sponges and seagrasses.
When developing management plans, managers are aware of the need to encourage the adoption of more selective gear such as hooks and line, or modified gear such as panels in trawl nets, to reduce the take of bycatch. Bottom trawl nets have been developed which have less contact with the seabed. In Queensland a code of fishing practice on how best to avoid the capture of turtles, and recovery procedures if they are caught, has been developed in partnership with the fishing industry.
To find new uses for what has in the past been discarded, the Commonwealth Government in 1994 introduced new arrangements to allow the landing in Australia of bycatch, caught in Australian waters, from foreign vessels operating in the Australian fishing zone. These new arrangements have both reduced waste and provided new employment opportunities in the processing sector and were worked out with the cooperation of the Australian fishing industry.
Extensive efforts are underway to reduce the impact of fishing on seabirds such as the wandering albatross. Australian researchers are working closely with Japanese and Australian commercial fishers to develop ways to reduce the unintended capture of albatross which take bait in the tuna long-line fishery. Operators are encouraged to set long-lines at night when the birds do not feed and also to use tori poles, that is, streamers attached to poles to scare away the albatross. In November 1995 the use of these devices was made compulsory in the Australian fishing zone and it is hoped that Japanese long-liners will continue to use them when fishing on the high seas.
Development of Aquaculture and Mariculture
The aquaculture industry is an important and increasing user of resources, particularly in Australia's coastal region, and has the potential to make a significant contribution to economic growth. Various recent reports including the final report of the Coastal Zone Inquiry (1993) and the recently released National Strategy on Aquaculture in Australia (1994) have highlighted the need to confront a number of issues including possible degradation of resources, resource use conflicts and a lack of information about the interaction of aquaculture ventures with the environment.
In order to address these concerns, the Commonwealth Government announced new measures in Living on the Coast: The Commonwealth Coastal Policy (1995). An environmental program comprising two main initiatives will be developed. The first initiative is to develop a framework for environmental codes of practice for the industry. This will involve a study to identify Commonwealth, State and Local Government regulations concerning aquaculture operations and to provide a clear picture of the regulatory mechanisms faced by the industry. The study will examine working models from other industries to determine whether they have the potential to be adopted for use in aquaculture, and will incorporate a multi-disciplinary approach to shaping a future policy framework. Environmental risks both to and caused by aquaculture operations will be examined. Sectoral strategies will be developed and then combined to form an industry-wide environmental code of practice.
The second initiative is to examine and promote environmental best practice techniques across the industry. This will involve collection of information on a wide range of environmental issues, case studies of leading operators and comparisons with overseas examples. The case studies will enable Australian operators to evaluate their performance against best practice operations both domestically and overseas and encourage them to adopt leading edge technologies.
The Commonwealth Government and State Governments are also undertaking a national coordination role in partnership with industry and research organisations to ensure the development of an appropriate regulatory framework in which the industry operates. An example of Australia's progress in the field of sustainable development in the marine and coastal environment is the recent announcement by the Tasmanian Government that it is to introduce new fisheries management and marine farm planning legislation. Another example is that Victoria is currently developing an Aquaculture Strategy. Industry, government and the community are working towards an agreed approach to manage the sustainable development of marine and land based aquaculture.
Throughout the world the ability of fishing fleets to catch fish has risen faster than fish stocks can replenish or new stocks can be discovered. This has lead to over-exploitation of fish stocks, the collapse of some fisheries and severe economic hardship for fishing communities. The sustainability of many fish stocks and their supporting ecosystems is under severe threat.
Australia is a world leader in the implementation of fisheries adjustment schemes to confront these problems. Where fishing capacity has built up and over-fishing has occurred, management authorities have responded with adjustment schemes or special management arrangements tailored to meet the specific circumstances of the fishery. In the fisheries managed by the Commonwealth, for example, adjustment schemes, both with and without government financial assistance, have been employed. Some examples are described in the accompanying case study where direct intervention has laid the basis for adjusting fleet capacity to the level of sustainable stocks and fish catches.
Research is an integral part of managing fishing on an ecologically sustainable basis. For a discussion of initiatives in this area is provided in the chapter of this report titled ' Information'.
Over the past decade, tourism has emerged as one of Australia's most economically significant industries. In 1993-94, the tourism industry contributed nearly seven per cent to gross domestic product and employed around 500 000 people, or 6.6 per cent of the workforce. Australia attracted almost 3.4 million international visitors in 1994. High rates of growth in the industry are forecast to continue, with overseas visitor numbers expected to exceed six million in the year 2000.
Spectacular marine environments are among Australia's major tourist attractions. The Commonwealth Government is committed to ensuring that marine related tourism is environmentally sustainable. This commitment is illustrated by a number of tourism program initiatives which are aimed at better managing tourism activities in the natural environment. A good example is the development of policies to ensure that the popular tourism activity of whale watching is conducted on an environmentally sustainable basis. Another example is that the Government has developed a national cruise shipping strategy which includes references to the development of an environmentally sound approach to the management of waste from cruise ships, the improvement of operational procedures and the raising of environmental awareness in the industry. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is also a key player in ensuring that tourism at the reef is ecologically sustainable.
As an island nation dependent upon shipping for its international trade, Australia has a vital interest in ensuring safe and reliable shipping in the region. Australia's dependence on efficient and reliable sea transport is a central and permanent prerequisite for its economic viability.
Australia takes an active role in pursuing protection of the marine environment through improvements in the standards of ship and crew safety. It has both introduced and participated in a range of domestic and international measures aimed primarily at reducing the risk of shipping mishaps. It also acknowledges that remedial measures need to be in place in the event of an incident leading to pollution of the marine environment.
On 2 December 1994, the Australian Government released a draft strategy to manage discharges of ballast water from international and domestic shipping. The final strategy was launched in December 1995 and is aimed at minimising the risk of introduction of unwanted aquatic organisms into Australian waters. The strategy, developed by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) , is believed to be a world first. An interim Australian Ballast Water Management Advisory Council comprising representatives from Government, Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), AQIS, the EPA, fisheries agencies and industry has been established to implement the strategy. A Coastal Ballast Water Working group has developed guidelines to reduce the risk of transfer of organisms between Australian ports. The Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Centre for Research into Introduced Marine Pests has begun a research program to document the incidence of introduced pests and ways of reducing the risk of new introductions. AQIS has pioneered the adoption of ballast water management guidelines by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
The Victorian Parliamentary Environment and Natural Resources Committee has identified ballast water as an issue requiring further consideration and has recently commenced a detailed inquiry.
Australia's oil spill response is coordinated through the National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil (NatPlan). NatPlan is a cooperative approach designed to bring the resources of the States, Northern Territory, the Commonwealth and shipping, oil and exploration industries together to respond quickly to oil pollution in the marine environment.
NatPlan is administered by AMSA and funded by a levy imposed on commercial shipping using Australian ports.
A Working Party of Commonwealth and State officers and representatives of the oil and shipping industries completed a review of NatPlan in May 1993. The review of NatPlan was designed to ensure that Australia's response arrangements in the event of oil spills are appropriate to the risk posed to the coastal environment by ship sourced pollution incidents, not only from oil tankers, but also from other ships that carry significant quantities of fuel.
The review has resulted in a clearer division of responsibility between NatPlan participants including closer liaison with the oil and shipping industries, and the acquisition of new equipment and enhanced training measures.
Also, the objectives of NatPlan have been extended to include a requirement to respond to all marine oil pollution, not only ship sourced, and to provide the capability to respond to a spill of up to 10 000 tonnes. For oil spills over 10 000 tonnes, overseas assistance may be sought in accordance with the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, 1990. Australia has agreements with industry oil spill response centres in Singapore and the United Kingdom for additional assistance.
The Australian Government has developed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with New Zealand to facilitate cooperation and assistance in the event of a marine pollution incident affecting the Tasman Sea. Australia is also negotiating MOUs with the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to ensure similar cooperative arrangements are in place with our northern neighbours.
Through ANZECC, Australian Governments have developed a Maritime Accidents and Pollution (MAP) Action Plan. Following public consultation, the action plan was finalised and agreed in November 1995. The objectives of this plan are to enhance the protection of the Australian and New Zealand marine environment through promoting best practice to improve waste management and reduce pollution from shipping, and to communicate effectively with the maritime sectors about environmental values. This cooperative work by Commonwealth and State Government will lead to improved marine water quality and reduced environmental risks from maritime activities.
In April 1994 ANZECC agreed on the approach recommended by its Maritime Accidents and Pollution Task Force and in November 1995 recommended that Australian and New Zealand Governments focus on action on the following:
A number of Australian Governments have provided joint seed funding for several consultancies on ANZECC's agreed high priority issues. These include port waste reception facilities, marine debris, anti-fouling, and communicating to shipping on areas sensitive to shipping. The MAP initiative comes as Australian responsibilities for protecting its marine environment are reinforced by the EEZ (established in August 1994) and ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (November 1994).
The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) within the Commonwealth Government's Environment portfolio administers the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 to control the dumping of waste at sea. This Act enables Australia to fulfil its international responsibilities under the London Convention. It applies to all vessels, aircraft or platforms in Australian waters and to all Australian vessels or aircraft in any part of the sea. It regulates the deliberate loading, dumping and incineration of wastes and other materials, not operational discharges.
More than 200 permits have been issued since 1984. Most have been for dredge spoil. Some permits have been issued for ships, tyres, chemicals and burials at sea. A manual to assist applicants who wish to dump dredge spoil at sea is being developed by an ANZECC Task Force consisting of State and Commonwealth EPA representatives in close collaboration with port authorities. The administration of the Sea Dumping Act is currently under review.
Recognising that error in navigation is a prime cause of shipwrecks and consequent pollution of the sea, Australia has allocated increased resources to its Hydrographic Service in the past five years. Its principal assets are six survey ships, a survey aircraft, and a new chart production facility with a staff of 100. The annual operating budget is A$50 million and annual capital investment has averaged A$10 million in recent years.
The surveying and charting programs cover the coasts of Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Australian Antarctic Territory. In the 1994-95 financial year, 7 440 square nautical miles of survey were completed and ten new charts and seven new editions were published. Information about marine protected areas is provided on charts and through notices to mariners. Australia is an active member of the International Hydrographic Organisation.
Australia has an active program for the provision of electronic chart (ECDIS) services. Development work for these services was substantially completed by the end of 1995, and an initial digital (raster) chart service covering the sensitive Great Barrier Reef area will be available to international and domestic shipping from early 1996.
Meteorological monitoring makes an important contribution to maritime safety and to mitigating the impacts of natural disasters. The Bureau of Meteorology has initiated a Tropical Cyclone Coastal Impacts Project. The project is a collaborative effort with several emergency organisations, including Emergency Management Australia, the Australian Coordination Committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, the Queensland State Government Emergency Services, James Cook University, Macquarie University, Monash University and the Australian National University. The project has been established to study the likely impact of tropical cyclones on various sites and to recommend counter-disaster planning and mitigation strategies.
Under the international maritime conventions the port state (the country containing the port which a vessel is visiting) has the right to ensure compliance with convention standards. This inspection system is known as port state control, and has become a crucial element in the maintenance of adequate maritime safety and pollution prevention standards in light of the inadequate control exercised by some flag states, owners and classification societies in ensuring the maintenance of standards on vessels under their jurisdiction.
AMSA is a signatory to the MOU on Port State Control in the Asia Pacific region. Regional cooperation results in more effective inspections and better exchange of shipping intelligence and statistics with a consequential reduction in the ability of substandard ships to trade within the region. The exchange of data assists in identifying unsafe ships and in coordinating action to ensure that serious deficiencies are rectified before sailing. In 1994, a total of 153 ships were detained by AMSA under its ports state control program and in 1995, 244 ships were detained.
In December 1992, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure tabled the report of its inquiry into ship safety, 'Ships of Shame'. The report was successful in focusing both national and international attention on ship safety issues. In an effort to pursue a safer and more responsible international shipping industry, the committee has been required to inquire on an ongoing basis into development at the national and international level in relation to the issues identified in the 'Ships of Shame' report. The committee tabled its final report into ship safety, 'Ships of Shame - A Sequel - Inquiry into Ship Safety', in December 1995. The report built upon the recommendations of the previous report and recommended tougher inspection procedures for vessels and the enforcement of international labour laws to combat the widespread exploitation of seafarers.
Australia recognises the importance of international cooperation to achieve sustainable management of marine and coastal environments on regional and international scales. Australia participates in and supports a range of multilateral and bilateral forums aimed at improving the management of marine and coastal resources. Australia attaches particularly high priority to regional environmental cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
International Coral Reef Initiative. Australia is a founding member of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). ICRI was established in 1994 as a partnership among a number of nations including Australia, the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Jamaica and the Philippines, to promote the conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs and related ecosystems. The initiative aims to achieve this goal by highlighting the value of coral reef ecosystems and the threats they face from human activity. The initiative promotes capacity building, improved coastal management and coordinated research, monitoring and evaluation to ensure coral reefs are managed sustainably.
Partner governments in ICRI, recognising the importance of cooperative action on the sustainable management of coral reef resources held a workshop in Dumaguete City, the Philippines, in May 1995. The workshop brought together, for the first time, people from 36 countries, including government representatives, scientists, reef managers, relevant international and regional organisations, non-government organisations, funding agencies and the private sector, to discuss the future of coral reefs. Australia contributed A$65 000 to the workshop which enabled eleven representatives from the South Pacific region to attend. Workshop participants adopted a 'call to action', a statement of intent by governments and participating bodies, and a Framework for Action, an action program for ICRI partners, which will be used as the basis for international, regional and local action on the conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs and related ecosystems. Australia and its Pacific partners took leading roles in shaping the directions and outcomes of this workshop.
Australia provided support for the ICRI Pacific Regional Workshop held in Fiji in November 1995, and coordinated by the South Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP). The purpose of the Fiji workshop was to present the outcomes of the Philippines ICRI workshop to Pacific Island countries, identify regional and national coral reef management issues and priorities, and to develop regional coral reef strategies and implementation plans. Participants at the workshop from a wide variety of government and non-government organisations developed and adopted a Pacific Regional Strategy for Sustainable Development of Coral Reefs and Related Ecosystems. This strategy is to be endorsed at the highest level of government and implemented by national governments and regional organisations throughout the Pacific.
Protection of the Marine Environment from Land Based Activities. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which Australia is a Party, provides a legal basis for member states to adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources of pollution. Over a period of more than twelve years, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) worked in close cooperation with competent international governmental and non-governmental organisations to address the problem of land based sources of marine pollution.
This effort culminated in a UNEP inter-governmental conference hosted by the United States in Washington from 23 October to 3 November 1995, which finalised and adopted a non-legally binding Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPOA). The GPOA is aimed at eliminating sources of marine pollution, including sewage, persistent organic pollutants, radioactivity, metals, oils, nutrients, sediment mobilisation, litter and the destruction of habitats. Australia actively participated in the preparation of the GPOA.
Actions outlined in the GPOA are intended to assist member states in taking action within their respective policies, priorities and resources, which will lead to the prevention, control and reduction of the degradation of the marine environment. It also aims to maintain and improve productive capacity, to ensure the protection of human health, as well as to promote the conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources. Australia demonstrated its commitment to these objectives by supporting the GPOA at the Washington meeting, and is undertaking a range of initiatives domestically which are consistent with the overall objective of reducing pollution of the marine environment from land-based activities.
Convention on Biological Diversity. The convention entered into force on 29 December 1993 after negotiations in which Australia played a leading role. Australia signed the convention on 5 June 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and ratified it on 18 June 1993, following agreement by the Council of Australian Governments. Throughout the negotiation process Australia gained a good standing among other country participants, both from developed and developing countries. As the only mega diverse developed country in the world, Australia has been able to develop a large amount of expertise in biodiversity conservation and is considered to be a leading source of knowledge and expertise regarding matters covered by the convention, particularly in the field of marine biodiversity.
Under the Biodiversity Convention, an open-ended Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) has been formed to provide scientific advice to the Conference of Parties (CoP). It is supported by a Bureau on which Australia is currently represented. The SBSTTA meets annually prior to the CoP to consider topics to be advised upon for the implementation of the convention.
Australia has played a principle role in progressing the work of the Convention on Biological Diversity on marine and coastal biodiversity. As a member of the SBSTTA bureau our representative chaired and guided the discussions on this issue which led to most productive outcomes at CoP 2.
Recommendations from SBSTTA were considered in an informal group, chaired by Australia, with the final result being the establishment of a Roster of Experts. Being an island country Australia has developed a high level of expertise in a number of organisations such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, the Australian Institute for Marine Science, and International Tropical Marine Resource Centre and would expect to be able to contribute to the work on the roster.
The CoP sought to encourage the use of integrated marine and coastal area management as the most suitable framework for addressing human impacts on marine and coastal biological diversity and for promoting conservation and sustainable use of this biodiversity.
The Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has collaborated with the World Bank and the IUCN to prepare a four-part document entitled 'A Global Representative System of Marine Protected Areas' which contributes to the understanding of the range of marine biodiversity of the eighteen marine regions of the world and summarises the major threat to their conservation.
Australia coordinates a number of demonstration projects such as: the use of turtle excluder devices on prawn trawlers, and a zoning approach used in the North West Shelf fisheries which can provide practical assistance of integrated marine and coastal area management.
UNEP Regional Seas Programs. Australia participates in two of the Regional Seas Programs of UNEP, the East Asian Seas (EAS) Program and SPREP, encouraging dialogue and active participation in marine and coastal issues in the Pacific and Asia, including capacity building, education and training, integrated management of watersheds and related marine environments and conservation of biodiversity.
SPREP is the intergovernmental organisation for regional cooperation in environmental matters in the Pacific and provides an excellent conduit for dialogue among Pacific nations. Australia is a signatory to the SPREP convention for the Protection of the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region and actively supports SPREP activities relating to management of the marine environment. Australia has implemented a range of initiatives in line with its obligations under the SPREP convention, including state of the marine environment reporting and policies aimed at protecting marine biodiversity and environments, such as establishing marine protected areas and developing procedures to reduce pollution of the sea from land and ship based sources. Australia provided a report on its implementation of the SPREP convention to the SPREP's meeting in Apia in October 1995.
Australia is also actively involved in the UNEP East Asian Regional Seas Program. The UNEP East Asian Seas Action Plan is an action oriented program, taking a comprehensive approach to the well-being of present and future generations. The program links assessment of the quality of the marine environment and the causes of its deterioration with activities for the management and development of the marine and coastal environment.
The East Asian program is supported by the intergovernmental decision-making body, the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA). Australia attaches considerable importance to COBSEA as it provides a useful vehicle for dialogue activities to manage the seas of South East Asia. Australia has supported the COBSEA program and has participated with other members of COBSEA in a series of workshops, including 'Integrated Management of Watersheds in Relation to the Coastal and Marine Environment' and 'Biological Effects of Pollution'.
Small Island Developing States. Australia is committed to contributing to the promotion of sustainable development among small island developing states (SIDS) in the South Pacific region, and, through its development cooperation agency AusAID, has actively provided SIDS in the South Pacific with assistance in achieving this objective.
Australia played an active role in the preparatory process, chaired by Australia's Ambassador for the Environment, for the Global Conference on the Development of Small Island Developing States, held in Barbados in 1994. The conference demonstrated Australia's commitment to sustainable development in SIDS and the G77 nations.
The 25th South Pacific Forum established a regional consultative mechanism to coordinate and facilitate the implementation of Barbados outcomes. The mechanism, which is based on an Australian proposal, will consist of a support unit utilising the resources and services of SPREP and Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Pacific Operations Centre and an advisory committee comprised of senior officials.
The forum decision reflects a provision in the Barbados Program of Action which calls for a 'consultative mechanism' to be identified, or established where necessary, to coordinate implementation of the program in each region. The mechanism will have a major role in preparing for the 1996, 1997 and 1999 reviews of implementation (called for in the program) and for reporting annually to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) which is to monitor implementation of the program.
Through SPREP, Australia has also assisted in the implementation of the Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island States through vulnerability assessment of various SIDS to potential sea level rise and other coastal impacts of climate change. Australia has provided expertise to assist with a series of reports that have been produced on vulnerability to sea level rise for a number islands in the South Pacific region.
Regional/Bilateral Projects. Australia has also contributed expertise in policy making and technology in integrated coastal zone management in the Asia-Pacific Region. In the context of bilateral agreements, cooperative work with Indonesia in marine and coastal zone issues has been pursued. In particular, an integrated coastal zone management workshop was held in Jakarta in April 1995 and a waste management workshop was conducted by the Australian Environment Protection Agency in Australia in April 1995.
In line with the principles of the Torres Strait Treaty, Australia is developing an integrated natural resources planning framework with Papua New Guinea. The framework will consider the conservation and sustainable management of marine and terrestrial resources, including land management practices which minimise the impacts of wastes and soil erosion on the marine environment.
Australia also maintains interests in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Marine Resources Conservation Working Group, and contributed to its red tide/toxic algae and integrated coastal zone management projects.
Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on 5 October 1994, and was one of the first industrialised countries to do so. Under UNCLOS, Australia established the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in November 1994, having declared the Australian Fishing Zone in 1979. Australia is fully aware of its responsibilities under international law for conserving the living marine resources in its zones and promoting their optimum use.
Australia is very concerned about the depletion of global fisheries in the face of the build up in global fleet capacity and fishing technology. The spill over effects of displaced capacity onto the high seas is a serious threat for coastal States in relation to straddling and migratory stocks. While over-fishing occurs for short term financial returns, in the longer term there will be less fish and even greater economic hardship. Solutions are urgently needed if fish stocks and marine ecosystems are to be managed sustainably for future generations.
Australia is aware of the work undertaken in international forums on the extent and impact of trade distortions and fishing industry subsidies necessary to enable fleets to continue fishing despite large and ongoing financial losses. It is also aware of the complicating effects of social policies, such as income support programs, being linked to fishing seasons and industry assistance programs. This complex web of issues needs to be addressed on a global scale since corrective action by one country acting alone runs the very real risk of being cancelled out by another country's program to expand its fishing industry, particularly in the case of the larger distant water fleets.
For these reasons, Australia is an active participant in regional and global fisheries initiatives under UNCLOS, seeking regimes which provide for long-term conservation of and sustainable production from fishery resources we share with other countries. For example, with fellow members of the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency, Australia has made a substantial contribution to the work of the United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, strongly supporting the development of new international standards and principles for conservation and management of these stocks. Australia has also been actively involved in the development of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation's International Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and is already building elements of the draft code into domestic fishery regimes. Australia is keen to see major fishing nations examine, in a coordinated and structured way, the pressing matter of adjusting national fleet capacity to sustainable levels of fish harvests and fish stocks.
Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. In 1993, after over a decade of informal cooperation in the conservation and management of southern bluefin tuna (SBT), Australia, Japan and New Zealand concluded negotiations on the text for the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. The convention entered into force in May 1994 and is open to ratification by all countries fishing for SBT or in whose waters SBT occurs. It establishes the Commission for the Conservation of SBT, which meets annually to set a global total allowable catch and national quota allocations amongst the parties. An urgent priority for the new commission is to encourage participation by other countries which fish for SBT, and secure their cooperation in the efforts to provide for recovery of the severely depleted SBT stock. As noted earlier in this report, Australia has introduced a system of individual transferable quotas and has reduced the total allowable catch of SBT for Australian fishers to almost a third of its level a decade ago.
Technology Transfer in Regional Assistance. Australia provides substantial assistance to the island countries of the South Pacific for fishery conservation and development. It is a major donor to the South Pacific Forum Fishery Agency and funds a substantial proportion of the work of the agency in the region. Activities range from development of regional compliance and enforcement mechanisms to assistance in securing better returns from foreign fishing in island countries' EEZs. Direct technical assistance includes the Pacific Patrol Boat program under which Australia has provided patrol boats, staff and training to a number of Pacific island countries and continuing involvement in the development of a regional vessel and monitoring system. Australia is also an ongoing contributor to the Indo-Pacific Tuna Program, which is based in Colombo and compiles information from tuna fishing operations across the Indian ocean to assist in regional stock assessment.
Australia has also been a major long term contributor to the Tuna and Billfish Assessment Program at the South Pacific Commission, which undertakes the biological research underpinning decisions taken by Pacific island countries about the management and conservation of the valuable tuna resources in the central and western parts of the Pacific Ocean.
Australia is a foundation member and an active participant in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). IMO with 152 member nations, is the major international forum for dealing with matters of ship safety and marine pollution. One of the major focuses of IMO is the development of appropriate conventions and guidelines for environment protection. This approach has seen substantial progress in recent years with over ninety per cent of the world's shipping tonnage being covered by the major IMO conventions.
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 and its 1978 Protocol (MARPOL) is recognised as the most comprehensive initiative to regulate and minimise pollution from ships. MARPOL deals not only with oil but with all forms of ship-generated marine pollution.
A key element of MARPOL in the prevention of ship-sourced pollution is the provision of adequate reception facilities at ports to enable ships to discharge accumulated waste products such as oil, sewage and garbage in an environmentally responsible manner. Since MARPOL was first developed in 1973, the provision of adequate waste reception facilities has been an important focus for the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of IMO. Australian authorities, particularly at State and Territory level, are working with industry to ensure that adequate waste reception facilities are available in Australia and that appropriate pricing and finance mechanisms for such facilities are in place.
IMO is currently developing an annex to MARPOL to cover the issue of unwanted organisms in ballast water being introduced into coastal environments. Australia first raised this issue in the IMO MEPC in 1990. The MEPC subsequently introduced in July 1991 the International Guidelines for the Prevention of Unwanted Aquatic Organisms, which were based on Australian domestic guidelines introduced eighteen months earlier.
A major proportion of accidents at sea is due in some part to human error. IMO sets certification standards for the competency of seafarers through the International Convention on Standards of Training Certification and Watch-keeping (STCW). Australia has played an important part in a recent revision of the STCW convention, with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), providing the Chairman for the IMO Drafting Committee which revised the convention. The revisions, which will come into force on 1 February 1997, provide IMO with an audit process to assess states' compliance with the convention in relation to seafarers being adequately trained to operate vessels in a safe and responsible manner, and thus reducing the risk of shipping accidents and associated marine pollution caused through human error.
Australia has also taken an active role in the IMO in developing the Draft International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Cartage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea (HNS) to encourage the responsible carriage of substances which may pose a particular threat to the marine environment. The HNS convention will establish a suitable liability and compensation regime to deal specifically with hazardous and noxious cargo.
ANZECC, through its Marine Accidents and Pollution initiative, recognises that major advances in waste management, pollution prevention, and reduction of environmental risk must be developed through international forums such as the IMO, UNCLOS and other international arrangements.
Guiding Principles for the Sustainable Management of Coastal Resources
Coast Action, Victoria
Working With Industry In Western Australia
Marine Protected Areas in Australia
Reducing Water Pollution from Urban Centres in Western Australia
Torres Strait Fisheries: the Broader Scope of Management
Fisheries Management and Marine Reserves in New South Wales: Managing the Ecosystem
Tasmanian Fisheries Management and Marine Farm Planning Legislation
Structural Adjustment - Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery and the Northern Prawn Fishery
Tourism in the Great Barrier Reef
Environment Protection Measures for Shipping in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait
Hatchery Technologies for Threatened and Endangered Species