Risk assessment for environmental management of the marine environment
South-east Regional Marine Plan
About the report
Planned emissions and unplanned incidents in the marine environment have the potential to result in adverse environmental effects if a discharge of hazardous material or release of energy comes into contact with sensitive receptors. Environmental risk management is the process of systematically identifying credible environmental hazards, analysing the likelihood of occurrence and severity of the potential consequences, and managing the resulting level of risk.
The South-east Regional Marine Plan is primarily concerned with the hazards of anthropogenic activities in the marine environment (Chapters 1–6). A consultative risk assessment approach is necessary to evaluate the scale of environmental impacts from potential ecological and human health hazards. The benefit of risk assessment is to assist the decision making and planning framework for management of the Region.
The evaluation of ecological hazards must fit into decision making when comparisons of risk are necessary for a wide range of human activities and naturally occurring events. The process is not, of course, entirely objective and scientific in nature. Social expectations and the pressures of special interest groups influence perceptions of risk that cannot be ignored.
Decision makers seek to obtain the best possible scientific advice on which to base decisions. The criteria for decision-making is necessarily weighted in favour of consultation with stakeholders on issues of high social significance. The risk management process should be designed to address both the scientific expressions of risk and also deal with perceptions of environmental values which are more subjective and are likely to change with time.
The risk assessment methodology described here is based on the Australian/New Zealand Standard for risk management (AS/NZS 4360:1999; HB 203:2000). Although ecological risk assessment is a relatively new technical discipline, a systematic process has been applied to several proposed industry developments. These early efforts have been used to guide the selection of appropriate management actions, for the protection and enjoyment of the marine environment in Australia.