Impacts: Identifying disturbances
The South-east Regional Marine Plan
National Oceans Office, 2002
ISBN 1 8770 4310 9
About the report
It is important to understand and manage human activities and actions and their effects on the marine environment if we are to develop an ecosystem-based South-east Regional Marine Plan.
The purpose of this assessment is not to duplicate existing work on specific impacts, but to consider the range of impacts across the whole South-east Marine Region. This calls for a new perspective.
We have developed new tools for analysing and presenting information on the links between impacts across an area of over two million square kilometres of water. The two matrices developed from the assessment process represent our approach to addressing these new challenges.
The work in this assessment has so far concentrated on the initial stage of 'identifying the risks'. This report includes impacts that may be negligible, temporary and/ or localised, as well as impacts that are being mitigated by industry/ community practices. It does not measure the cumulative effects of the impacts, and it does not yet make any judgements about the relative risk or importance or consequences of those impacts, nor does it explain the many mitigation mechanisms in place. It also does not look at cumulative impacts.
The assessment process followed the Australian and New Zealand Standard for Risk Management as a general methodology for analysing information about impacts on the ecosystem. Standards Australia defines risk assessment as "...the process of risk analysis and risk evaluation...". Risk is defined as "...the chance of something happening that will have an impact upon objectives. It may be an event, action, or lack of action. It is measured in terms of consequences and likelihood..." (AS/NZS 4360). The report includes impacts that may be negligible, temporary and/or localised, as well as impacts that are being mitigated by industry practices.
The work reported here concentrates on the initial stage of 'identifying the risks'. To identify the broad range of impacts that affect the ecosystem, we developed specific tools:
- a classification of impacts into 12 disturbance categories
- a definition of where in the ocean environs disturbances occur and whether or not these are known to occur in the South-east Marine Region
- a definition of what causes disturbance and whether or not these known to occur in the South-east Marine Region.
This is a new way of analysing the information focusing on the ecosystem's perspective, rather than the more traditional approach of exploring the direct link between the activity itself and the disturbance it causes. As such, the analysis describes which parts of the ecosystem are affected by each disturbance category. The outcome of this analysis is illustrated in the matrix 'ocean environs and ecosystem components' (Matrix A, Section 3).
To help with this assessment, the Office established an Impacts Working Group, made up of expert representatives from industry, government and conservation (membership of this group is in Appendix 1). A broad range of additional experts from different sectors also provided information and advice for developing the matrices.
Having identified the range of impacts that occur in the Region, the Oceans Office will now seek an independent review of the matrices to ensure that they are an appropriate starting point for the further analysis and evaluation of impacts.We expect that the independent review will be undertaken in early 2002, and that prioritising, analysing and evaluating the impacts, within the context of current mitigating actions, will be carried out during the first half of 2002.
Only then will we be able to determine the likelihood and consequences of the various impacts that have been identified in this report. The final risk assessment will be completed later in 2002.