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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

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Australia's Marine Science and Technology Plan - An Overview

Commonwealth of Australia 1999
ISBN 0 642 72043 6

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Executive summary

Australia’s ocean environment is vast. Our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 11 million square kilometres. The EEZ around the mainland, at 8.6 million square kilometres, is larger than Australia itself (7.8m sq km); while the EEZ off the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) embraces a further 2.4m sq km. Beyond the EEZ, our Legal Continental Shelf off the mainland and AAT extends for an estimated further 5.1m sq km.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), we have the opportunity to confirm a claim to this area by 2004. Together with the EEZ, the combined total area of 16.1m sq km is known as Australia’s Marine Jurisdiction (AMJ).

Australia’s Marine Science and Technology Plan is concerned with developing a better understanding of the nature of the AMJ:

We need to meet these challenges in a region that encompasses all types of ocean temperature zones, from tropical to polar, and an extensive and diverse range of ecosystems and species, many of which are unique in the world. We also need to respond to the diverse needs of users of our waters, and guide the development of sustainable maritime industries in the context of ecosystem-based and multiple-use management regimes.

The resources needed for this include:

Our marine science, technology and engineering capabilities are characterised by a degree of specialisation that puts us at the forefront of certain fields, from knowledge of tropical reef ecosystems to fast vessel design and construction. We are building our knowledge of regions and using this in a range of applications – conservation and environmental protection, offshore petroleum exploration and production, navigation guidelines, shipping, and sustainable fisheries resource management programs.

The Plan builds on these strengths in presenting proposals for integrated and innovative science and technology, conducted in the national interest to guide the exploration and ecologically sustainable development and management of the marine resources under our jurisdiction; to understand and predict climate variability and change; and to support the sustainable development of existing and new marine industries. It also addresses our ability to meet our international commitments, and the need to encourage effective community participation, including through the integration of indigenous knowledge in understanding and managing marine resources.

The Plan defines twenty-nine objectives for the national effort in marine science, technology and engineering, through three Programs:

  1. Understanding the marine environment;
  2. Using and caring for the marine environment; and
  3. Infrastructure for understanding and utilising the marine environment.

The objectives, and particular strategies for achieving them, arise from a review of national circumstances that included consideration of the issues and programs identified in Australia’s Oceans Policy, released by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator the Hon Robert Hill, in December 1998.

The Plan takes a long view. Its proposed responses to national issues, needs and priorities are intended to be addressed over a period of ten to fifteen years, although within that period, some proposed actions and initiatives are identified as priorities for consideration in the shorter term – over the next three to five years. These are: