A National Approach to Addressing Marine Biodiversity Decline Report to the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council
Over recent decades, all governments with responsibilities for Australia's marine jurisdiction have been working to limit the loss of marine biodiversity. Longstanding strategies and programs are in place across all jurisdictions that are concerned with conservation specifically or with the ecological sustainability of marine industry sectors.
Despite limitations in the knowledge of what exists, its current condition and pressures, observations of significant decline in some marine species in some areas lead to the conclusion that Australia's marine biodiversity and ecosystems are in a state of continuing decline. The effects of a number of threatening processes are resulting in declines in habitats, changes in ecosystems and loss of species.
The time is right to consider progress, policy directions and the effectiveness of program delivery. There is an opportunity now to review the effectiveness of, and seek improvements in, efforts to minimise future degradation.
At the request of Ministers, a Working Group was established to identify the threats and causes of marine biodiversity decline and to identify high-level gaps in information. The Working Group has also reviewed the current responses to the threats and challenges to the effective management of marine biodiversity. In considering a future national approach to managing biodiversity, key policy directions and priority actions for responses to threats have been proposed.
The Working Group has identified the five most significant, broad-scale threats to marine biodiversity, where existing responses should be enhanced and where national-scale attention is required for new actions. The five threats are: climate change, resource use, land-based impacts, marine biosecurity and marine pollution.
Response to these threats could be significantly enhanced with better coordination of responses across jurisdictions. Improving our understanding of the current condition of marine biodiversity and addressing knowledge gaps in a strategic manner would also enhance our capacity to respond to these threats.
As part of a national approach, eight key policy directions have been suggested to minimise threats to marine biodiversity, and to improve coordination and the capacity of governments to understand and respond to marine biodiversity decline. Implementing a national approach would result in better management of key threats to marine biodiversity, and through that reduce further losses, increase resilience, and allow damaged ecosystems an opportunity to recover. Suggested key directions are listed under broad themes below.
Theme 1 – Improving the Effectiveness of Delivery
- Key Direction 1 – Foster collaborative relationships amongst jurisdictions to ensure complementary responses to the causes of marine biodiversity decline.
- Key Direction 2 – Review and evaluate national coordination across jurisdictions of responses to marine biodiversity decline with respect to key threats.
- Key Direction 3 – Promote cooperative and complementary, ecosystem-based planning and management approaches across jurisdictions.
Theme 2 – Measuring Success
- Key Direction 4 – Work towards a nationally consistent marine and coastal biodiversity and fisheries monitoring and reporting framework with baseline/reference sites in and out of Marine Protected Areas.
Theme 3 – Improving Knowledge
- Key Direction 5 – Develop a targeted strategy to address key gaps in knowledge of marine biodiversity and improve access and sharing of knowledge and data.
Theme 4 – Responses to key threats: protecting ecosystems, habitats and species and increasing resilience
- Key Direction 6 – Improve the understanding of the vulnerability of marine biodiversity to climate change focusing on ecosystems and species that are at particular risk.
- Key Direction 7 – Develop regional climate adaptation policies and plans based on predictive modelling and integrate them into marine bioregional planning processes.
- Key Direction 8 – Progress the integrated management of the coastal zone including monitoring coastal marine biodiversity.
Priority actions have been identified in respect to climate change, resource use and land-based pollution. Agreed integrated strategies for action for marine biosecurity and marine pollution exist and are being implemented, and no additional actions are proposed. The report proposes both new actions and actions that require continuation and extension of the current work of governments.
Conservation of the marine environment is a complex matter involving multiple jurisdictions and stakeholders across a range of marine industries. Implementation of a national approach would require the cooperation and commitment of all relevant governments.