State of the Environment 2011 Committee. Australia state of the environment 2011.
Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Canberra: DSEWPaC, 2011.
Australian officials actively participate in the international forums of the Antarctic Treaty System to promote improved environmental protection and conservation outcomes for the Antarctic region.
Examples of management achievements in recent years include:
- Australia co-convened a Committee for Environmental Protection workshop in 2006 on Antarctica's Future Environmental Challenges, which led to the development of a strategic work plan for the committee. Highest priorities currently include removing non-native species and preventing new introductions, climate change, tourism and area protection.
- In 2007, parties to the Antarctic Treaty approved an Australian-led proposal to establish an Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA) in the Larsemann Hills region of East Antarctica, with the objective of promoting cooperation and collaboration between the parties that are active in the region (Australia, China, India, Romania and the Russian Federation).
- In 2008, Australia led an international review of the environmental aspects of China's proposal to establish a new research station at Dome A, within the AAT. Australia led a similar review in 2011 of the Republic of Korea's proposal to establish a new station in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.
- The 2010 Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts on Climate Change and Implications for Antarctic Management and Governance and the subsequent Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting endorsed Australia's assessment of climate change implications for current and future Antarctic infrastructure, logistics and environmental values, and agreed that other parties to the Antarctic Treaty should undertake and report on similar assessments.
- In 2010 and 2011, Australia conducted official inspections of several Antarctic facilities operated by other parties, including assessing compliance with the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty and Madrid Protocol.
- Australia held the Chair of the Committee for Environmental Protection from 2003 to 2006, and since 2008 has held the position of committee Vice-Chair. Since 2008, Australia has also led an official subsidiary body of the committee, established following an Australian proposal, with the objective of improving the effectiveness of management plans for ASMAs and ASPAs.
- In CCAMLR, Australia has played a leading role in discussions about how to improve the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. For example, in 2006, CCAMLR prohibited the use of bottom trawling gear in areas shallower than 550 metres in the high seas areas of the convention area. CCAMLR also now requires an assessment of impacts on bottom environments before any fishing activities occur. Following an Australian proposal in 2006, CCAMLR prohibited the use of deep-sea gillnets in the convention area. Directed fishing for sharks has also been prohibited by CCAMLR. Australia's patrol presence in the Heard Island and McDonald Islands region has resulted in no reported (IUU) fishing activity in the Heard Island and McDonald Islands exclusive economic zone since 2004-05.
- A CCAMLR Conservation Measure was adopted to increase cooperation between CCAMLR and noncontracting parties to undertake more coordinated capacity building, including in port and flag states. Australia co-sponsored a successful proposal to CCAMLR that resulted in a productive workshop in Africa in 2010 to build capacity among African states that have engaged in IUU fishing or IUU-related activities.
In recent years, there has been near zero seabird bycatch by legal fishers operating in commission-managed fisheries. However, bycatch of seabirds, including endangered albatrosses and petrels, remains unsustainable in the Southern Hemisphere. All 22 species of albatross protected under the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels are now listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as threatened. It is estimated that worldwide up to 300 000 seabirds are killed each year during interactions with coastal and high seas fisheries. Coastal fisheries are subject to state legislations and fisheries regulations; in contrast, high seas fisheries are open access operations. Although the high seas have been divided into management areas of various regional fisheries management organisations, the incentives to avoid overexploitation and to operate sustainably are weak.220 Many of the high seas tuna fisheries, including in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, have failed to adopt and effectively implement the known effective bycatch mitigation measures. Bycatch from IUU fishing is difficult to estimate but known to occur at a higher rate than from legal fisheries due to the likely absence of bycatch mitigation measures. Australia, through its active engagement with the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels and other international forums (including CCAMLR and regional fisheries management organisations) is actively pursuing the adoption of sustainable fishing practices that minimise seabird bycatch (Box 7.8).
Seabirds have long suffered high mortality rates in interactions with commercial fishing operations throughout the Southern Hemisphere.221-222 This is primarily due to longlines, where birds are attracted by the baited lines, become hooked and drown. For example, since 2002, about 40 000 white-chinned petrels (Procellaria aequinoctialis) alone were killed mainly on longlines set in the southern Indian Ocean near Crozet and Kerguelen islands. Many thousands of seabirds were also killed in fishing areas managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. However, during their annual meeting in 2009, the commission announced that only two seabirds had been killed by legally operating demersal toothfish longliners in commission-managed waters (seabird deaths were reduced in the subantarctic but remained high). This was truly remarkable given that some 32 million hooks had been set to catch toothfish.223
This achievement was due to the collaboration of scientists, policy makers and industry members wanting to reduce the bycatch of seabirds. Key to the collaboration was a long-term study into the effectiveness of various mitigation measures, and particularly the development of the integrated weight longline. This new line contains 50 grams of lead at its core, which makes it much heavier than standard longlines. The result is that this line sinks faster when set and arrives much quicker than standard lines at depths that are beyond the reach of most seabirds, especially albatrosses (Figure A).224 The commission adopted the sink rate of 0.3 metres per second as one of its conservation measures.221 That means this sink rate is part of the licence conditions that commercial fishers must adhere to in their operations.
Integrated weight longlines were readily adopted by owners of fishing vessels because these lines are part of the fishing gear and do not require extra effort to operate. They are now used widely in the world's longline fisheries and have reduced the mortality of white-chinned petrels by 95%.225 However, the problem remains for small petrels, like grey petrels, in some fisheries. These small seabirds can dive to depths of about 70 metres, making it very difficult to deter them, because they can quickly follow even a fast-sinking longline. Hence, another project was launched to develop an underwater-setting device that deploys baited hooks well below the ocean's surface where the petrels can neither see nor smell the bait. The bait setter uses a capsule that carries baited hooks 8-10 metres below the ocean's surface and is designed for tuna and swordfish in longline fisheries. Trials of a prototype of the device are currently under way.
Source: Data from Robertson et al.224. Design by Barbara Wienecke, Australian Antarctic Division
Longlines with integrated weight sink much faster than normal (unweighted) gear and greatly reduce seabird mortality
Source: Simon Bennet, Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
White-chinned petrels are the most common seabird species killed in longline fisheries in the Southern Hemisphere; every year, tens of thousands are caught in commercial longline operations.
Source: Photo by Graham Robertson, Australian Antarctic Division
The underwater bait setter delivers hooks 8-10 metres underwater, which are unseen by seabirds, and has the potential to eliminate the mortality of albatrosses and greatly reduce the mortality of deep-diving species, such as white-chinned petrels and shearwaters.
|Component||Summary||Assessment grade||Confidence in grade||Confidence in trend|
|Ineffective||Partially effective||Effective||Very effective|
|World Heritage and protected areas|
Understanding: The nomination of World Heritage and protected areas is based on their recognised natural and cultural values
|Planning: Management plans are in place and are reviewed regularly|
|Inputs: Financial, human and information resources are available to implement the management plans|
|Processes: For Heard Island and McDonald Islands, there is stakeholder consultation and all management plans are open to public consultation|
|Outputs and outcomes: Identified natural and cultural heritage values are being preserved|
|Land use and management|
Understanding: There is a good understanding of the impacts of human activities in our operational environment
|Planning: AAD's environmental management policy provides an overarching policy framework for all activities in the Australian Antarctic Territory and subantarctic islands. This policy is consistent with Australia's obligations under the Antarctic Treaty|
|Inputs: AAD administers an environmental management system supported by a program of scientific research|
|Processes: The environmental management system is certified to the internationally recognised standard (AS/NZS ISO 14001:2004). The AAD's environmental policy was last reviewed in 2009|
|Outputs and outcomes: Relevant management information collected through the environmental management system is used to guide management decisions|
|Adaptation to climate variability and change|
Understanding: There are a number of significant uncertainties about the impacts of climate change; however, scientific programs are in place to further our understanding of processes and future implications
|Planning: The forecast infrastructure plan takes into account energy efficiencies and carbon emissions|
|Inputs: Adaptive management is resourced within the current operational framework|
|Processes: Scientific studies are examining potential effects of climate change|
|Outputs and outcomes: As scientific results become available, policies will be formulated|
|Pests and invasive species management|
Understanding: There is a good understanding of threats and impacts of alien species, both on the Antarctic continent and subantarctic islands
|Planning: Policies are in place to minimise the risk and impact of alien introductions|
|Inputs: Human resources are allocated to implement policies that minimise the risk of alien introductions (participation in the Committee for Environmental Protection's Aliens in Antarctica science program, environmental officers on all stations, ships and at the AAD)|
|Processes: Environmental training and information are provided to all personnel and to the public|
|Outputs and outcomes: There is a legacy of alien introductions into Antarctic and subantarctic environments (e.g. rabbits and rodents on Macquarie Island); however, in recent years, programs have been effective in mitigating the risks|
|Recent trends||Improving||Stable||Confidence||Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus|
|Deteriorating||Unclear||Limited evidence or limited consensus|
|Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment|
AAD = Australian Antarctic Division
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