Developing the plans
There were five key steps in the preparation of Marine Bioregional Plans.
1. Characterisation of the marine region
Currently available scientific and other information were used to describe the bio-physical environment and socio-economic characteristics of the marine region and its conservation values, including key ecological features, protected places and species and species groups protected by the EPBC Act. This information was combined in a Bioregional Profile for the region.
2. Regional analysis of the conservation values
The pressures potentially affecting conservation values were identified and characterised against a scale of concern in relation to their impacts on the values. The regional pressure analysis was informed by peer reviewed scientific literature and its findings subject to external review by experts in the relevant fields. The outcomes of the regional pressure analysis are described in Schedule 1 and informed both the identification of regional priorities (Part 4) and regional advice on matters of national environmental significance (Schedule 2).
3. Development of regional priorities
The regional pressure analysis assisted in the identification of conservation values that were, or potentially were, adversely affected by multiple pressures, as well as pressures that were impacting on multiple conservation values. Where warranted by the level of concern, these conservation values or pressures have been identified as regional priorities and consideration given to the strategies required to address them (Part 4).
4. Development of regional advice
The regional pressure analysis has also informed the development of regional advice in relation to matters of national environmental significance (Schedule 2). This advice has been prepared to assist people planning to undertake activities in Commonwealth marine areas to better understand and comply with their obligations under the EPBC Act, including helping people to decide whether to refer their proposed activity and determine what information would most usefully accompany any referral.
5. Public consultation on the draft Marine Bioregional Plan
Marine Bioregional Plans were released in draft form for a 90 day public consultation period. The comments received have been taken into account in finalising the plans.
Marine bioregional plans were developed in consultation with stakeholders and with input from scientists and other experts. There are a number of ways that scientific information is used in the marine bioregional planning process:
- Bioregional Profiles for each marine region were prepared using scientific information about the region's biophysical and socio-economic characteristics and conservation values. In particular, scientists were involved in the identification of key ecological features and the compilation and analysis of data on the biophysical characteristics of each region. When the Bioregional Profiles were publicly released stakeholders, scientists and other experts were asked to identify any information that was missing or had been misinterpreted within them. In this way, the Bioregional Profiles were also important in building the information base for each marine region. The bioregional profiles for each region also include extensive scientific references.
- As draft marine bioregional plans were developed, scientific information was used to assess pressures on the conservation values for each marine region. Scientific information used in assessments included environmental and impact assessment studies, risk assessments, expert advice and research conducted both within Australia and elsewhere. Scientists are also involved in the identification of biologically important areas for marine species.
- In 2011, four draft Marine Bioregional Plans were released, giving scientists and other experts as well as stakeholders and the wider community the opportunity to provide input including identifying new and/or more detailed information that would assist in the completion of the plans. This input helped ensure the final Marine Bioregional Plans are based on accurate information and present a shared understanding of the conservation objectives and priorities within a region.