Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2009
Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)
The department is responsible for developing and implementing Australian Government initiatives and programs to protect and conserve Australia's coasts and oceans.
The department is also responsible for progressing international marine conservation initiatives. This includes the government's whale and dolphin conservation and protection policies, through forums such as the International Whaling Commission.
The department's work covers a wide range of activities in the marine and coastal environments.
The Australian Government's Caring for our Country Reef Rescue initiative
|Land and Coasts Division|
- Bioregional profiles for the North-west, East and North Marine Regions were released. Drafting of marine bioregional plans are now well under way for each of these regions. Plans will be completed over the coming 12 months, as well as the East and South-west regions.
- As part of the East marine bioregional planning process, a Conservation Zone was established in the Coral Sea. It will provide interim protection while the area is being assessed for possible inclusion in one or more Commonwealth marine reserves.
- The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008 was passed by Parliament in November 2008. The changes put in place a modern, future-focused, regulatory framework for the Great Barrier Reef, and remove duplication with other environmental legislation, notably the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
- The government established the Southern Ocean Research Partnership as part of a comprehensive, six-year, $32.9 million package, for non-lethal whale research and other marine mammal conservation initiatives. The Partnership will deliver valuable, non-lethal research on an international scale. It will demonstrate, once and for all, that whales do not need to be killed in the name of science. The Partnership was launched in March 2009, with an international planning workshop in Sydney.
- Work to help achieve Reef Rescue objectives is under way. Regional natural resource management organisations in the reef catchments, in partnership with agricultural industry groups, are working on projects worth $23 million in 2008-09, to build partnerships and work with land managers to undertake targeted on-ground works.
- The Community Coastcare 2008-09 competitive grants funding round was well subscribed, with 794 applications requesting more than $64 million. Funding was provided to 439 projects: $10.7 million for small grants up to $50,000 and over $9.5 million for larger scale grants up to $250,000. These projects will contribute to the protection of coastal environments and critical aquatic habitats, while enhancing community skills, knowledge and engagement with Indigenous Australians, volunteers and coastal communities.
- The south east Queensland regional NRM organisations received $2 million, for recovery work in the Moreton Bay wetland and surrounding coastal environments, following the significant oil spill that occurred on 11 March 2009.
- Progress the roll-out of the Marine Bioregional Planning program and Marine Bioregional Profiles covering Commonwealth waters, and establish an effective management regime for the Marine Protected Areas.
- Implement the Australian Government's anti-whaling policy agenda.
- Assess the environmental performance of all Commonwealth-managed fisheries, as well as state-managed fisheries that operate in Commonwealth waters or export product, under the EPBC Act.
- Progress the implementation of the Framework for a National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management.
- Help protect migratory and threatened marine species.
- Develop and implement a sound policy framework for the Great Barrier Reef, including through the operation of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council and measures such as the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.
- Implement the government's whale conservation policy agenda through: active engagement in the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to work towards bringing an end to so-called 'scientific' whaling, and supporting the permanent protection of whales; appointing a Special Envoy for Whale Conservation to engage in bilateral discussions with the Government of Japan and other key countries; and publishing a report on the current status of whale conservation. At the national level, progress development of a National Network of Whale and Dolphin Sanctuaries, and enhance Australia's national and international cetacean research capacity.
- Establishment of the Indonesian Bird Banding Scheme.
- Fulfil international and regional obligations including those under: the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species; the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; the Convention on Biological Diversity; the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement; the Arafura and Timor Seas Expert Forum; the Coral Triangle Initiative; the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia; and a number of bilateral migratory bird agreements.
- Through the Caring for our Country business plan, the government has set clear objectives to achieve, by 2013, a measurable reduction in the amount of nutrients, sediments and chemicals entering the Reef lagoon:
- a 25 per cent reduction in dissolved nutrients and chemicals
- a 10 per cent reduction in sediments and particulate nutrients.
- To meet these objectives, the Caring for our Country business plan outlines three-year Reef Rescue targets. These are:
- to increase by 1300 the number of farmers who have adopted land management practices that will improve the quality of water reaching the reef lagoon, and
- to increase by 1500 the number of pastoralists who have improved ground cover monitoring and management in areas where run-off from grazing is contributing significantly to sediment loads and a decline in the quality of water reaching the reef lagoon.
- To deliver Community Coastcare, the Australian Government's 2007 commitment to provide $100 million over five years to better protect our precious coastal environment. The Community Coastcare 2008-09 grants aimed to support a range of coastal management outcomes, including the important work undertaken by Community Coastcare groups and larger scale projects, to improve the management of coastal hotspots.
- Bioregional profiles were released for the North-west and North Regions in November 2008 and for the East Region in May 2009. Data gathering and analysis, to support the development of a proposed network of Marine Protected Areas and other conservation strategies, has advanced in all marine regions. Drafting of marine bioregional plans for each of the four planning regions is under way.
- The Coral Sea Conservation Zone was established in May 2009 to provide interim protection for the Coral Sea while it is being assessed for possible inclusion in one or more Commonwealth marine reserves, through the marine bioregional planning process.
- The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008 was passed in November 2008. The Amendment Act puts in place a modern regulatory framework for the Great Barrier Reef, including streamlined environmental impact assessment requirements, and improved capability and flexibility for enforcement of relevant environmental laws.
- The Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland signed a new Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement in June 2009. The agreement provides a framework for cooperative action by the two governments to manage the Reef and protect it from both local and external pressures. Implementation of the Agreement will be driven by the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council, which met for the first time under the new agreement in early July 2009.
- Substantial progress has been made on developing a management plan for the Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve. The plan is expected to be released in the 2009-10 financial year.
- In February 2009, eastern gemfish and the school shark were listed as conservation dependent under the EPBC Act.
- Assessments of the environmental performance of fisheries under the EPBC Act were completed for 11 Commonwealth-managed fisheries and 28 fisheries managed by the states and territories.
- A draft recovery plan for the Australian sea lion has been approved for release for public comment; this will take place in the new financial year.
- As at 30 June 2009, 1785 grants totalling $211,125,977 had been approved under the Great Barrier Reef Structural Adjustment Package.
- A pilot project with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has developed a scientifically robust method to identify indicators of marine ecosystem health at the scale of the Commonwealth marine environment. The method is now being applied in all Commonwealth waters, in a joint project between the department and the CSIRO. The indicators will contribute to State of the Environment reporting.
- A round of bilateral meetings under Australia's migratory bird agreements were held with Japan, China and the Republic of Korea in September 2008.
- A Memorandum of Understanding was finalised between the East Asia-Australia Flyway Partnership and the Republic of Korea, to establish a permanent Secretariat for the Partnership in the City of Incheon in the Republic of Korea.
- Support was gained from the Republic of Korea and China for the implementation of a collaborative program of activities in the Yellow Sea Ecoregion, to address migratory waterbird conservation and the sustainable use of critical mudflat staging habitat in the Yellow Sea.
- The department entered into a Record of Understanding (ROU) with the AusAid Public Sector Linkages Program (PSLP). Funds were granted for the establishment of the Indonesian Bird Banding Scheme (IBBS) to monitor wild bird and disease movements.
- Australian officials undertook active engagement in IWC reform discussions, including the Small Working Group on the Future of the IWC, to develop proposals for consideration at the IWC annual meeting, held in Madeira, Portugal, on 22-26 June 2009.
- Mr Sandy Hollway AO was appointed as Australia's Special Envoy for Whale Conservation in October 2008 to undertake high level discussions with senior government officials in Japan and other key IWC members. Mr Hollway's efforts complemented intensive diplomatic efforts undertaken by Australian Government Ministers and officials.
- As part of the cetacean research funding initiative, the Southern Ocean Research Partnership held a successful workshop in Sydney on 23-26 March 2008 producing a five-year research plan, which was presented for review at the IWC annual meeting.
- Work to help achieve Reef Rescue objectives is underway. There has been an overwhelming and positive response from landholders to Reef Rescue. Central to this has been the support offered by partnerships between regional bodies and industries. Through Reef Rescue water quality grants, farmers across the sugar, grazing, horticulture, dairy, grains and cotton industries, are implementing targeted on-ground works to achieve water quality outcomes for the Reef lagoon.
- Over $20.2 million has been provided to 439 Community Coastcare projects, to undertake activities to improve the conservation of our coasts over the next 18 to 24 months. Community groups and non-government organisations made up the highest percentage of successful applicants for both small grants up to $50,000 (55 per cent) and larger-scale grants up to $250,000 (35.7 per cent).
A strong strategic framework underpins the department's programs to protect and conserve Australia's coasts and oceans.
Marine Bioregional Planning
The department is developing marine bioregional plans under section 176 of the EPBC Act. Plans will include detailed proposals for the establishment of new networks of marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters, as part of the Commonwealth's contribution to the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. The department has been allocated $37.5 million, over four years (2006-2010), to develop these marine bioregional plans, which are currently being drafted for the South-west, North-west, North and East Marine Regions.
Marine and migratory species protection
The department administers provisions of the EPBC Act aimed at the protection of migratory and threatened marine species. This has included development of species recovery plans for great white sharks, Australian sea lions, New Zealand fur seals and grey nurse sharks.
Coastal zone management
In the area of coastal zone management, the Framework for a National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management is a national agreement between the Australian, state and territory governments. It was established to help governments deal with coastal zone problems in an integrated way. A five-year implementation plan for the Framework was agreed in May 2006, and has been followed through in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09.
The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan
A Reef Summit was held on 24 October 2008, jointly hosted by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts and the then Queensland Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation. The Summit brought together over 80 representatives of industry bodies, conservation groups, natural resource managers and researchers, to initiate work to update the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan. This is a ten-year plan aiming to halt and reverse the decline in the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon from adjacent catchments. An updated Reef Plan is expected to be in place early in the 2009-10 financial year.
Marine pest management
In the area of marine pest management, the Australian Government is working with state and territory governments to establish a National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions. The National System has three major components: preventing new populations of marine pests establishing in Australia; a coordinated emergency response to new incursions and translocations; and the ongoing control and management of existing populations of marine pests. The department contributes to all aspects of the national system, but takes a coordinating role in the ongoing control and management of existing populations.
The National Partnership Approach for the Sustainable Harvest of Marine Turtles and Dugongs in Australia was developed to support regional arrangements to address the sustainable harvest of turtles and dugongs in northern Australia. Such regional arrangements include: the implementation of the Land and Sea Country Indigenous Partnerships Program for the Great Barrier Reef; and turtle and dugong, community-based, management plans in Torres Strait.
Following a decision of the 60th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC60) meeting in Chile during June 2008, Australia actively participated, along with 32 other IWC members, in a Small Working Group to discuss the future of IWC. Australia's approach to these discussions is consistent with proposals to modernise the IWC to make it more conservation focused and to work toward ending so-called 'scientific' whaling while preserving the global moratorium on commercial whaling. Recommendations of the Small Working Group were considered at the Intercessional meeting of the IWC, in Rome 9-11 March, and at the IWC 61 in Madeira, Portugal on 22-26 June 2009.
Australia announced the provision of more than $32 million over six years for national and international research, including over $14 million to facilitate international non-lethal whale research in the Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean Research Partnership is the largest non-lethal whale research partnership in the world. It is the first truly international, circumpolar, multi-disciplinary research collaboration, with a primary focus on improving conservation outcomes for whales.
Australia intensified its diplomatic efforts and appointed Mr Sandy Hollway AO as the Special Envoy for Whale Conservation to undertake high level discussions with Japan and other key IWC members to encourage support for Australia's position for reforming the Commission.
Australia supported cetacean conservation activities in the Asia Pacific Region through strategic funding of key initiatives, including the First International Marine Mammal Protected Area Conference, held in Hawaii on 30 March-3 April 2009, and the second meeting of signatories to the CMS Pacific Cetaceans Memorandum of Understanding, to be held in Noumea, New Caledonia on 20-29 July 2009.
At the national level, workshops were held with state government officials to progress development of a National Network of Whale and Dolphin Sanctuaries and to discuss cross-jurisdictional issues and management practices for all cetacean related matters.
As part of Caring for our Country - Reef Rescue, the Australian Government will invest $200 million over five years, to increase the resistance of the Great Barrier Reef to climate change by improving the quality of water entering the reef lagoon. This will be achieved by applying improved land management practices to reduce the run-off of pollutants from agricultural land in the reef catchment:
- in partnership with the Queensland Government, Reef regional bodies, industry and the World Wildlife Fund, the Australian Government has invested in projects that will achieve direct water quality benefits
- investments are designed to assist land managers to increase the uptake of successful approaches, such as: the use of precision agriculture to reduce soil compaction and erosion; managing and re-vegetating cane drains; and converting machinery to increase pesticide and fertiliser application efficiency.
- Specific examples of the improved management practices being implemented across regions and industries through the water quality grants include:
- converting machinery to improve the precision with which fertiliser and pesticides are applied (e.g. hooded sprayers, direct drilling of legumes, subsurface fertiliser application, variable rate application)
- irrigation practices (e.g. micro/auto irrigation and fertigation, moisture monitoring) that match irrigation inputs to crop requirements to minimise the loss of pesticide and nutrients to deep drainage and run-off, and
- training and education activities to enable farmers to develop skills to implement whole-of-farm practice changes, that improve water quality leaving farms and entering the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon.
On-ground works and partnership activities will be supported by the other components of Reef Rescue, which will:
- provide a baseline of current agricultural land management practices in the reef catchments
- monitor the reef lagoon and develop an integrated catchment to the reef monitoring program
- fund priority research projects required to support and enhance Reef Rescue delivery, and
- foster partnerships between Traditional Owners and reef managers, and develop Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreements.
As part of the 2008-09 transition to Caring for our Country, the Community Coastcare initiative provided funding opportunities for coastal communities to participate in coastal protection and restoration activities, and to support national projects. Projects funded included: protection and restoration of coastal habitats and native coastal vegetation communities; dune restoration and prevention of coastal erosion; improved water quality and restoration of coastal waterways; and prevention and control of invasive weeds and pests. The funded projects will also improve skills, knowledge and engagement of volunteers and communities, including Indigenous Australians, to protect and restore coastal environments and increase community participation in coastal management.
The Australian Government implemented 10 rounds of the Envirofund small grants program, from 2002 to 2008, as the local action component of the previous Natural Heritage Trust program. Envirofund rounds nine and ten supported over 276 projects worth more than $6.3 million, which, during 2008-09, directly contributed to the conservation of Australia's coasts. Projects included: protection and rehabilitation of coastal dunes, through fencing, weed removal and revegetation works; installation of signage to raise awareness of coastal issues; and caring for coastal environments and community-run shorebird monitoring programs.
The Tuggerah Lakes on the Central Coast of New South Wales are under pressure from rapid population growth and associated development. The Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan has been developed as a response. Caring for our Country is funding implementation of some elements of the Plan for a period of five years. The work that commenced in December 2008 includes restoration activities that will improve ecosystem functions of the lakes by managing increasing sediment and nutrient loads through the control of stream-bank erosion, stormwater runoff and degraded foreshores. A Scientific Advisory Committee has been established to guide delivery of the project.
The release of the remaining bioregional profiles (North, North-west and East) during 2008-09, under the marine bioregional planning program, is a significant step in better protecting Australia's marine regions. The profiles not only provide a basis for marine planning, they also provide a baseline snapshot of the environmental values of these areas to enable future evaluation of impacts and success of efforts to protect marine regions. In addition, the profiles assist both stakeholders and the department by informing decision-makers about the conservation values of Commonwealth waters.
The department played a central role in Australia's growing international profile in marine conservation, with the implementation of the government's anti-whaling policy agenda. This included significantly increased diplomatic efforts seeking an end to unilateral, so-called 'scientific', whaling, a permanent end to commercial whaling, and the development of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership.
At the national level, the Australian Government continued to work with state and territory governments to maintain and enhance joint approaches to the conservation of whales and dolphins in Australian waters.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Structural Adjustment Package
The department commissioned an independent review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Structural Adjustment Package and is considering the recommendations from the report.
To help monitor, and report on, the outcomes of Reef Rescue, the Australian Government, in partnership with the Queensland Government, is developing a paddock scale monitoring framework. This framework will be nested within a broader Paddock to Reef Monitoring Framework, to enable a system wide picture of Reef health.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has been engaged to conduct a study of current agricultural land management practices in the reef catchments. It will provide a baseline, against which the government can assess progress in increasing the uptake of improved land management practices over the five years of Reef Rescue.
In line with its Reef Rescue election commitment, the Australian Government is working with catchment NRM bodies, industry, the World Wildlife Fund and the state government, to develop a paddock to reef monitoring, modelling and reporting framework. This, in the first instance, will measure and report the outcomes of Reef Rescue investment in high priority areas.
Caring for our Country
The Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement (MERI) Strategy for the Caring for our Country initiative was first released in April 2009. It provides an adaptive management framework, through which the Australian Government will monitor and evaluate the delivery of the initiative's five-year outcomes. This will cover each of the six National Priority Areas, including the Priority Area of coastal environments and critical aquatic habitats. The strategy describes the roles of the Australian Government and proponents undertaking Caring for our Country projects, in analysing and reporting progress towards the outcomes. The Australian Government will use this information to inform and improve the implementation of the initiative to deliver on the five-year outcomes.
The 2008-09 Community Coastcare grants provided funding for 439 projects, including 370 small-scale projects and 69 larger-scale projects. The program was well subscribed, with 55 per cent of applicants receiving funding. Results from these investments will be included in the first Caring for our Country Annual Report Card, which is due to be released later this year.
Evaluation of project activities will be undertaken on completion of the projects.
The department is advancing the Australian Government's engagement and support for the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI). This is a new multilateral partnership to protect marine and coastal resources and biodiversity for the 240 million people who rely on this biodiversity hotspot. Uniting six neighbouring countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor L'este - known as the CT6), the CTI is a unique regional partnership that promotes sustainable livelihoods and ecosystem health while easing poverty in the region.
To promote cooperation and development within the Coral Triangle, the Australian Government hosted the Coral Triangle Protection and Management Workshop in Townsville in November 2008. Representatives at the Workshop came from: the CT6, the United States Government, the Australian Government, the Asian Development Bank, the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, World Fish Centre, the Coral Triangle Initiative Program Integrator, CSIRO, the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Coral Geographic, University of Queensland and the CTI Regional Secretariat. The Townsville workshop allowed the CT6 to identify challenges that need to be addressed which will assist them to develop National Plans of Action.
The department also supported the Indonesian Government's global endeavours, including the Manado Ocean Declaration, agreed to at the World Oceans Conference in May 2009 at Manado, Indonesia. This global initiative sets out a number of key objectives to be targeted in the future, including:
- long term conservation, management and sustainable use, of living marine resources and coastal habitats
- cooperation in furthering scientific research in the marine and coastal zones
- gathering and sharing information on threats from climate change
- promotion of increased community resistance to the effects of climate change
- promotion of developing affordable, environmentally sound, and renewable ocean technologies in developing countries
- continuing to establish and effectively manage Marine Protected areas, and
- further collaboration with international bodies, to integrate ocean consideration into the United Nation's climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.
These activities have maintained Australia's standing as a regional leader in marine conservation and management while strengthening ties with our neighbours. The CT6 countries, Australia, and other partner institutions, have a shared interest in building the knowledge, skills and capacity for dealing with regional environmental threats within the Asia-Pacific region. The CTI remains a major priority for both the department and the Australian Government.
Case Study 2: Research and monitoring trip to the Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve - December 2008
Georgina Cay, Lihou Reef.
Photo: Courtesy of Coastwatch
The Lihou Reef is a unique and pristine coral reef atoll located approximately 700 kilometres east of Cairns, off far north Queensland. The Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve was declared in 1982 because of its significant and representative conservation values and unique beauty. It is zoned as International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Ia: a strict nature reserve with the highest level of protection afforded for a Commonwealth protected area under the EPBC Act.
The reserve is representative of remote oceanic atolls in the Pacific Ocean and is home to a diverse range of species and habitats. This includes internationally significant seabird breeding habitats, green sea turtle nesting, and a unique marine biodiversity. The reserve comprises about 8440 square kilometres of seabed and a horseshoe shaped reef system containing 18 cays. The 18 cays and islets range in size from 0.7 to 17 hectares and surround a 100 by 30 kilometres, 20 metre deep lagoon. Six of the group of atolls are vegetated with low lying shrubs and grasses. The remainder are mostly made up of sand and beach rock.
In December 2008 a multidiscipline research and monitoring team, the first of its kind for the reserve, left Gladstone on board the MV Iron Joy, for the two day journey to Lihou Reef. On board the vessel were teams of marine, terrestrial, genetic and remote sensing researchers, as well as reserve managers and a four-person crew. The first cay visited was the vegetated Georgina Cay at the south-western edge of the reef. Then the vegetated Anne Cay, Lorna Cay and Turtle Islet were visited, with the unvegetated Middle Cay the last site visited.
Squirrel fish of Lihou Reef.
Photo: Courtesy of Coastwatch
Around 10 days were spent at the reserve, as the researchers undertook marine and terrestrial surveys, genetic sampling and ground-truthing of light signatures. The marine survey involved divers assessing the benthic community (including coral, sponges and algae), marine invertebrates and non-secretive fish. Genetic sampling was also undertaken by the divers to assess the connectivity of the Lihou Reserve with the broader region. The terrestrial survey involved an assessment of the vegetation, terrestrial invertebrate fauna, seabirds and nesting sea turtles on the cays and islets. The remote sensing team collected a range of light signatures given off by different habitats, marine and terrestrial, which they will apply to satellite imagery to develop a habitat map of the reserve. The two reserve managers on the trip erected metal information signs, collected, recorded and removed marine debris from the cays and islets, and rescued one stranded female green sea turtle at Middle Cay.
The marine survey recorded a wide variety of species: over 100 hard coral, 35 sponge, 10 trepang (sea cucumbers), 3 clam (including a new species for the reef) and 340 non-cryptic fish species. The amount of live coral cover was around 15 per cent, which is typical of a remote oceanic atoll recovering from a previous disturbance. The previous marine survey of Lihou Reef in 2004 occurred during a bleaching event, with subsequent mortality leaving a live coral cover of only around seven per cent.
The terrestrial survey recorded: 10 species of flora that formed eight different vegetation communities; 15 seabird species, including 10 which are internationally significant; and 10 Orders of terrestrial invertebrates. The latter included species of cockroaches, butterflies, flies, beetles, pseudo-scorpions, grasshoppers, ticks, true bugs, ants and spiders.
The results of this research and monitoring trip to the Lihou Reef will be used by reserve management to inform future management decisions. Future surveys and monitoring activities at the reserve will also use these results to compare and assess the condition of the natural environment of Lihou Reef.
Map: Courtesy of Coastwatch
Coral, Coral Sea Conservation Zone.
The Coral Sea is internationally recognised for its rich biodiversity and important heritage values. In May 2009, the area of the Coral Sea under Australia's jurisdiction was declared a Conservation Zone to provide interim protection while the area is being assessed for possible inclusion in one or more Commonwealth marine reserves.
The Coral Sea Conservation Zone covers approximately 972 000 square kilometres of Australian waters and seabed, east of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP), and out to the edge of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone.
The environmental significance of the Coral Sea lies in its diverse array of coral reefs, atolls, deep sea plains and canyons, and the extent to which the region's natural and heritage values have remained relatively undisturbed by direct human impact.
Recent international studies have revealed that the Coral Sea is one of the last remaining areas of the world's oceans where large-scale and biologically rich ecosystems remain relatively intact.
The Coral Sea also has important heritage significance as it is the location of a number of historic shipwrecks and the scene of major naval conflicts in World War II.
By declaring a conservation zone in the Coral Sea, the Australian Government is demonstrating its commitment to protecting one of Australia's most biologically diverse and undisturbed marine environments.
The conservation zone will have no additional regulatory impact on most activities in the Coral Sea, such as commercial and recreational fishing, or cruise and merchant shipping. However, some commercial activities and scientific research activities will require a permit.
The Coral Sea lies within the East Marine Region, and assessment of the conservation zone will be undertaken as part of the East Marine bioregional process. This will involve extensive stakeholder consultation and a detailed analysis of the environmental, economic and social values of the area, as well as existing and potential future uses.
Marine bioregional planning will provide the foundation for conservation and sustainable management of Australia's marine environment, including the development of new networks of marine protected areas.
Newly converted biodunder variable rate spreader which significantly reduces application rates of nutrients on sugar cane farms in the Great Barrier Reef regions.
Photo: Courtesy of CSR Ethanol, Sarina.
Reef Rescue was a $200 million election commitment in 2007 that is being delivered under the Australian Government's Caring for our Country initiative. The delivery arrangements for Reef Rescue are unique. Peak agricultural industries, coastal regional bodies, non-government organisations, farmers and graziers, and the Queensland and Australian Governments, have come together in an unprecedented way to deliver clear and targeted objectives; all in the name of helping the Great Barrier Reef become more resistant to the impacts of climate change.
The outcomes expected from the investment are reductions in the quantities of nutrients, chemicals and sediments leaving agricultural lands and entering the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon.
The Reef Alliance is an independent partnership of six regional natural resource management (NRM) bodies and six peak agricultural industry bodies. The groups have joined together to promote integrated delivery of programs and improve the uptake of sustainable farming practices under Reef Rescue.
This integration continues at the regional level, but Reef Rescue is not managed as a 'one size fits all' model. Each regional NRM body has developed a comprehensive network of delivery arrangements with key industry providers to harness the local skills and knowledge of regionally-based NRM practitioners, and to ensure relevance to local industries and production systems. Through Reef Rescue investment and regional NRM body coordination, landholders are able to access an expanded network of support, to encourage and assist them to undertake significant changes to their production systems to improve the quality of water leaving their properties. More than 900 landholders have been engaged in the delivery of Reef Rescue projects in the first year of the program and there has been strong competition for the available funding.
In 2008-09 Reef Rescue has focused on: equipping land managers with the skills to implement farm-scale change through on-farm risk assessments; and supporting the implementation by land managers of prioritised on-ground works programs. Most activities have focused on production system changes that result in reduced nutrient and chemical inputs, and more effective management of stock and pastures to reduce erosion. Farmers are required to contribute at least 50 per cent of the total project cost in either cash or in-kind contributions. Other components of Reef Rescue include: research and development; monitoring and evaluation; and Indigenous Land and Sea Country Partnerships.
One example of a strategic, multi-farm and industry, project being funded is the Colonial Sugar Refineries (CSR) Ethanol Biodunder project. Biodunder is a high nutrient by-product of ethanol production. Variable rate nutrient application technology has been fitted to 12 contractor vehicles, to ensure precision application of recycled biodunder on sugar cane crops.
The Southern Coastcare Association of Tasmania (SCAT) received $49,984 in 2008-09, for a Caring for our Country Community Coastcare project, which will facilitate community engagement in the protection and rehabilitation of coastal habitats. The funding will enable SCAT to provide practical, on-ground support and advice to community groups undertaking works in coastal areas in southern Tasmania.
SCAT is a not-for-profit, incorporated organisation representing over 30 passionate Coastcare groups in southern Tasmania, from Dover, to Port Arthur, to Swansea. In 2008 at the prestigious National Landcare awards held in Canberra, the group was awarded the Australian Government Coastcare Award, for its groundbreaking work to bridge the gap between Coastcare groups, government agencies and environmental organisations. As an umbrella organisation, SCAT provides member representation and a strong community voice, to policy changes and program development for the southern coastal regions of Tasmania.
To implement its Caring for our Country Community Coastcare project, SCAT will engage a part-time facilitator, to improve the skills and knowledge of volunteers by sharing best practice techniques at working bees and training days.
Techniques for dune restoration and stabilisation, weed and feral pest control and the prevention of coastal erosion will form part of the training; as well as encouraging consideration of the impact of climate change on coastal management. SCAT training days will also promote knowledge sharing between its Coastcare groups, local land managers and other stakeholders.
Working alongside the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, SCAT also raises awareness of Aboriginal heritage issues. An Aboriginal Heritage Officer will be engaged to perform assessments of at least four different coastal sites across southern Tasmania. This will enable Coastcare groups to plan future works without impacting on sensitive Aboriginal sites. The Aboriginal property of Murrayfield, on Bruny Island, will be the central meeting point for one community engagement workshop. Training will demonstrate best-practice techniques in planning works on culturally sensitive environmental areas of the coast. This workshop will facilitate knowledge sharing between volunteer groups, while also encouraging new community members to participate in the sustainable coastal practices supported by SCAT in caring for the coast and its heritage. For more information on the Southern Coastcare Association of Tasmania see: www.scat.org.au .
|A national coastal policy that effectively integrates biodiversity conservation
Draft of the national coastal policy agreed across relevant Australian Government agencies
|As the first step in meeting its Caring for Coasts election commitment, the Australian Government provided a reference to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts Inquiry into Climate Change and Environmental Impacts on Coastal Communities. The findings of the Inquiry will be a critical input to the development of the national coastal policy. The Inquiry is expected to report in late 2009.|
|Effective engagement in international forums to deliver the Government's biodiversity conservation goals||Australia has worked tirelessly in the IWC, and bilaterally with Japan and other key IWC countries, to develop strategies to reform the Commission into a 21st century cetacean conservation organisation and to end lethal 'scientific' whaling. Australia has engaged effectively in other key international forums including: Convention on Migratory Species; Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species; Convention on Biological Diversity; Coral Triangle Initiative; Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation; the World Oceans Conference; and numerous bilateral engagements.|
|Marine Bioregional Planning is effectively Implemented
Marine Bioregional profiles are completed for four marine regions
|4 Bioregional Profiles have now been released, with substantial progress towards development of draft Marine Bioregional Plans, including draft proposals for regional networks of Commonwealth Marine Reserves.|
|The National Reserve System of Marine Protected Areas is effectively managed
Management plans in place for all Commonwealth Marine Reserves
|8 Commonwealth Marine Reserves and one Reserve network (of 14 reserves), are being managed under interim management arrangements until the development of network management plans. 3 Reserves have management plans in place.|
|Effective conservation measures are in place for marine and migratory species protected under the EPBC Act
Assessments and plans identify key actions required to ensure the protection of species
Grey Nurse Shark Recovery Plan
Great White Shark Recovery Plan
Marine Turtle Recovery Plan
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) is assessing five additional, commercially harvested, species under the EPBC Act:
Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) (nominated 2006)
Three deepwater dogfish (Harrison's Dogfish, Endeavour and Southern Dogfish) (nominated by TSSC)
TSSC is also assessing: Damage to marine ecosystems by trawling in the area of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, as a Key Threatening Process (KTP).
|Coastcare grants available to communities across Australia
At least 300 community groups engaged in coastal protection and rehabilitation
|Through Caring for our Country Community Coastcare, competitive grants provided funding for 439 projects involving communities in coastal protection and rehabilitation activities. Over 3000 groups and community members will be engaged in these projects, in activities such as: on-ground works, capacity building and knowledge and skills development.|
|Improved protection for Australia's coastal environments and critical aquatic habitats
Increase in area of coastal environments and critical aquatic habitats protected and managed
At least 300 coastal protection and rehabilitation projects funded
Establishing a policy and governance framework to implement the Great Barrier Reef Rescue plan
At least $30 million invested in activities that will improve water quality of the Great Barrier Reef.
|Caring for our Country Community Coastcare 2008-09 provided over $20.2 million in competitive grants. The activities funded included: weed removal and revegetation, to rehabilitate coastal waterways and wetlands; management of public access, to minimise disturbance to sensitive coastal areas; enhancing public awareness; and developing community skills, knowledge and engagement. These projects will contribute to the area of coastal environments and critical aquatic habitats protected and managed.
The 69 larger-scale Community Coastcare 2008-09 projects will make a substantial contribution to the protection and management of critical aquatic habitats, including nationally significant coastal wetlands.
The 439 Community Coastcare 2008-09 projects will all contribute to the protection and rehabilitation of coastal environments and critical aquatic habitats.
Reef Rescue is being implemented wholly within the broader Caring for our Country policy and administrative guidelines.
Regional natural resource management organisations in the reef catchments, in partnership with agricultural industry groups, are working on projects worth $23 million in 2008-09, to build partnerships and work with land managers to undertake targeted on-ground works.
Further Reef Rescue investment has been through development of a Multiple Criteria Analysis, a land management practices baseline study, investment in Indigenous Land and Sea Country Partnerships, the Marine Monitoring program, and a Paddock to Reef Monitoring and Reporting Framework.
|Pro-actively speak in support of Australia's initiatives for whale conservation
Australia's position on whale conservation is articulated internationally
|The Australian Government has worked to develop proposals for improving and modernising the IWC - within the IWC and bilaterally with Japan and other key IWC countries. Central to these activities, is the development of reform proposals that will include closing the loophole that allows for scientific whaling. Key initiatives include: bilateral discussions by government ministers and senior officials; the activities of the Special Envoy for Whale Conservation; and the Southern Ocean Research Partnership.
The government published a report, in June 2009, on the global and regional conservation status of cetaceans; and the current economic value of cetacean conservation, including whale watching, as a sound basis for the development of future strategies and policies. The report was released at the IWC annual meeting.
|Improved bilateral relations with key players in the International Whaling Commission (IWC)
Increased support for Australia's whale conservation initiatives in the IWC
|Active engagement in the IWC, particularly in reform activities, including membership of the Small Working Group for the Future of the IWC.
Bilateral engagement with key IWC countries, including contacts by government ministers and senior officials and through the activities of the Special Envoy for Whale Conservation.
Advancing Australia's international cetacean conservation reform objectives, through the development, funding and implementation of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership.
|The provision of regular reports to Government
Reports by the Special Envoy are provided following each mission undertaken
|The Special Envoy for Whale Conservation has produced regular formal and informal reports to the government on his diplomatic efforts.|
|Regular meetings are held with key stakeholders and their views are considered
The department (and the minister and Special Envoy, as appropriate) holds regular meetings with relevant non-government organisations
|The Cetacean Roundtable met three times in 2008-2009. The Roundtable provides for the exchange of information and views between Australian non-government conservation organisations and government officials, on current issues relevant to whaling and whale and dolphin conservation.
A workshop involving the Australian Government and all relevant state and territory governments was held in February 2009, to discuss cross-jurisdictional issues and management practices for all cetacean related matters.
|Engagement of key IWC members in the Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP)
Participation of key IWC members at the SORP workshop in March 2009 and announcement of research partners over the course of the year
|50 participants, including representatives from 12 countries, attended the SORP workshop held in Sydney in March 2009|
|Finalisation of the SORP work program
The agreement of research priorities by SORP workshop participants with the research plan for the Southern Ocean tabled at IWC61
|An agreed five-year research plan was developed at the SORP workshop. The research plan will be submitted to the IWC annual meeting in June.|
|Through its implementation, SORP is developed as a model for coordinated non-lethal cetacean research
Purchase and development of equipment to undertake non-lethal whale research; and establishment of a database to collect and manage research data
|Approximately $6 million was allocated in 2008-09 to advance Australia's cetacean conservation research, including the purchase and development of equipment and data management tools for non-lethal whale research.|
| Effective fisheries assessments
Percentage of environmental recommendations implemented under the EPBC Act assessments of fisheries management
|100%. Assessments have been completed for all Commonwealth-and state-managed fisheries and state-managed fisheries requiring approvals under the EPBC Act.
Recommendations for improvements in fisheries management were made through this process. Progress and adequacy of implementation of the recommendations will be considered during a reassessment. Assessments were completed for 40 fisheries in 2008-2009, with 8 being considered by the minister and the remainder under delegation.
|Departmental Outputs|| Budget 2008-09
| Actual Expenses 2008-09
|Conservation of the coasts and oceans||39,712||35,320||4,392|
|Subtotal for Output 1.3||39,712||35,320||4,392|
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