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The national oceans advisory group - Australia's oceans policy
National Oceans Office, Hobart June 2000
Permission is granted to reproduce part or all of this publication
(with appropriate acknowledgment) for non-commercial purposes.
Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA)
AMSA's interests in the South-east Region and the South-east Regional Marine Planning process parallel those in all parts of Australia. We seek that management decisions which affect the marine environment (be they conservation, extractive use or coastal/catchment uses impacting in the marine or estuarine environment) are based on sound scientific information developed using sound methodologies.
We seek that such decisions not be made in the absence of available or obtainable scientific information. Our interests are also in ensuring that the capacity for Australian marine science to deliver this information base is well resourced and of an internationally competitive standard. To this end AMSA sponsors a number of education initiatives and fosters future leaders for Australian marine science.
The infrastructure and expertise to support active research and research training in the South-east Region is well established in the form of a range of state and commonwealth government agencies, universities and private companies. It is important that mechanisms be established such that these organisations and their scientists can be engaged in the planning for and delivery of useful science based outcomes needed for planning and ongoing monitoring and development of the South-east Region.
Sustaining increased use of the South-east region for wealth generation through a range of competing multiple uses will fail unless based on sound management. Thus a good information base is essential.
Key objectives with particular relevance to the South-east Region and for the South-east Regional Marine Plan are the needs:
These are among key objectives included in Towards a Marine Science Policy for Australia, AMSA's policy statement outlining important issues, objectives and recommendations for marine science policy. Copies of the policy will be available at the Oceans Forum and from AMSA and can also be found on the AMSA web site www.uq.edu.au/amsa
Australian marine science will help meet the challenges in managing multiple use issues in the South-east Region. For Australia to realise the potential of its marine environment and meet the expectations of present and future generations of Australians, the following points need to be addressed:
AMSA's membership of nearly 1000 is strongly representative of the range of disciplines making up marine science. Marine scientists and engineers work within most industries and sectors with an interest in issues affecting the South-east Region. Links are maintained through membership of AMSA, meetings of local branches in each state, the Australian Marine Sciences Bulletin and AMSA's Annual Conference. This year's conference is to be held at the University of New South Wales from July 11 to 14.
Australian Seafood Industry Council (ASIC)
The seafood sector maintains a close involvement in the South-east Marine Planning Process. In summary, these interests include the following.Profile of interests in the region
ASIC at this forum is representing operators in all State and Commonwealth fisheries that operate in the South-east region of Australia. These include State fisheries in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, and Commonwealth fisheries, South-east Trawl and Non-Trawl, Southern Shark, Bass Strait Scallop and Tuna, together with processors. In Tasmania alone there are some 1040 companies and individuals in State and Commonwealth fisheries in waters out to 200 nautical miles.
These are well-established fisheries, the majority with management plans and strong access rights, and those that do not have formal management plans in place work under tightly controlled input arrangements. Most of the Commonwealth fisheries have, or are developing, bycatch action plans. Many of these fisheries have been through significant re-structuring over recent years, with effort being reduced to economically efficient and sustainable levels. Stock Assessment Groups and/or Management Advisory Committees are in place for all Commonwealth fisheries in the region.
Economic health of the industry is a key to success of sustainability measures. ASIC objectives for the South-east region include continued long-term employment, particularly in the rural and regional areas which are dependent on the fishing industry.
Many of the ports are situated in rural areas and depend on the commercial fishing industry and tourism for their existence. The South-east region supplies a large proportion of the fresh fish for the Sydney and Melbourne fish markets as well as a significant proportion of Australia's $2 billion of export fish products from the rock lobster, abalone, scallop and trawl industries.
ASIC will continue to pursue growth and new export opportunities, consistent with sound environmental practices. To achieve this goal it is important not to have any unnecessary restrictions on fishing operations. This industry development will benefit all Australians, today and into the future. The sustainable management plans now operating are a key to the ongoing viability of these industries, and to preservation of fish stocks and the aquatic environment for future generations.
Aquaculture has especially strong potential for development in the South-east region of Australia.
Catches of current target species are not expected to rise significantly. Development of the fishing industry in the South-east region will be mainly through value adding and downstream processing of these target species, and the development of under-utilised resources which include squid, jack mackerel and skipjack tuna. Major opportunities exist to increase employment and reduce unemployment in rural and regional communities. The major impediment to these occurring would be any reduction in access to fishing areas.
Offshore Constitutional Arrangements, or complementary management arrangements, although progressing slowly, are still seen as an impediment to good fisheries management within the region. Inter-sectoral fishing interests are effectively managed through a number of management advisory committees, state industry councils and ASIC.
The seafood industry has good links with the tourism industry and is considered a tourist attraction in many fishing ports. The industry works co-operatively with oil exploration companies with the main area of concern being the explosive effect of seismic testing on fish behaviour.
Australian Shipping Federation (ASF)
For the purposes of the shipping industry, the South-east region takes in the ports of Melbourne, Geelong, Hastings and Portland in Victoria as well as the ports of northern Tasmania - Burnie, Devonport and Bell Bay. Hobart is also encompassed within the South-east region. Our understanding is that Port Stanvac and Adelaide to the west and Port Kembla and more northerly ports are not comprehended in this region.
Melbourne is the largest container port in Australia and is a central port for importation of crude oil from sources other than Bass Strait (which arrives by pipeline) and export of refined products for distribution to Australian and export destinations. Melbourne is also a bulk commodities port for trades including cement and phosphate for use in the building and rural industries respectively. A large bulk handling terminal is just being completed at Appleton Dock in Melbourne.
Melbourne is also important as the mainland hub for sea connections with Tasmania. The Bass Strait trade is serviced by five vessels with daily sailings by all five vessels across Bass Strait between Melbourne and northern Tasmanian ports. Geelong is a dry bulk and liquid bulk port. Grain is a major bulk export from Geelong whilst refined petroleum products are also exported from Geelong. Major cargoes shipped into Geelong include crude oil and alumina to Point Henry for processing into aluminium.
Hastings is predominantly a loading port for crude oil produced in Bass Strait, much of which is transported to oil refineries such as that at Kurnell in Botany Bay. Portland is an export port for bulk grain cargoes as well as livestock cargoes.
Tasmanian ports are utilised for export from Tasmania of newsprint to Melbourne, agricultural produce to the mainland through Melbourne as well as export cargoes shipped directly in some cases. Tasmania's economy is almost totally dependent on shipping through the ports of Bell Bay, Devonport and Burnie for both its merchandise and tourist trades.
The efficient operation of shipping and ports in the South-east Region of Australia is integral to the maintenance and improvement of Australia's trade both internationally and, in the case of a number of essential domestic commodities such as petroleum, they are integral to the domestic Australian community as well.
The firms represented by the Australian Shipping Federation comprise over eighty-five per cent of shipping servicing Australia. The constituents of the Federation are ship owners and operators, towage operators, ships' agents, ship managers and charterers. The companies represented by the Federation operate all different types of vessels.
The activities of shipping are well-established although the technology used in shipping is continuously evolving. The trades in which ships are trading are well established. Whilst trades do change over time as economic geographic patterns vary, the maxim that ‘ships go to localities where cargo is located' will remain applicable - in other words the trading pattern of ships is influenced far more by the location of economic activity ashore than any other factor.
The objective of ship operators for their services in the southeast of Australia will be to continue to service cargo moving in and out of the region, to do so in a safe and efficient manner and to be in a position to plan for growth in trades and capacity in the future.
The activity of ship operators is largely responsive to changes in trading and economic conditions in a locality. The likelihood that south-eastern Australia will continue to be the dominant area for the Australian manufacturing and importing industries means that ship operators see a continuing demand for shipping services in that part of Australia for the foreseeable future.
The shipping industry relates to a number of stakeholders in a wide range of activities associated with shipping. Environmental policy, commercial policy, immigration policy, industrial relations policy, industry policy and, of course, transport policy are all considerations for the shipping industry.
Within the wide range of stakeholders in the shipping industry there are interlinking considerations. For example, dealing with an environmental issue such as ballast water requires consideration and consultation with a number of sectors: the shipping industry, the ports industry, the minerals industry, various government departments, both state and federal, as well as research and scientific sectors. There are networks in place to allow for this consultation process and generally there are no issues in regard to current sectoral arrangements.
Australia is well known for its world-class minerals industry. In realising the benefits of Australia's natural mineral wealth the industry makes a substantial contribution to the sustainable development of the nation. Most of the production of our minerals industry is exported, providing a sound basis for Australia's international trading performance - around $30 billion per year.
At present, the industry is rarely associated directly with the oceans. However, the ability of the seas to act as transport lanes for its products is critical to the future of an industry producing bulk commodities for export from an island. Thus the interests of the Minerals Industry within Australia's oceans policy include:
The Australian minerals industry contains a disparate range of companies, operations and interests. The industry is variously represented by commodity associations, State minerals chambers, specialist groups and the peak group, the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA). Most of the larger companies are members of the MCA, but many companies operating in Australia, and Australian companies operating overseas, are not.
While individual companies may compete strongly with each other in the market place, they usually work co-operatively with respect to the environment. A large proportion of the industry subscribes to the Australian Minerals Industry Code for Environmental Management. A central plank of that code is the adoption of the principles of sustainable development. Indeed, a current initiative involving most of the world's large mining houses (the Global Mining Initiative (GMI)) is seeking to advance the industry position as a contributor to sustainable development.
Sustainable development involves a fairer distribution of resources between this and future generations. The GMI believes this cannot be accomplished without a wider sharing of the benefits of development today. Thus, sustainable development is not solely about environmental issues, but based on the requirements of human development and on the social underpinning for this. In addition to continuing environmental quality, its aspects include:
In following the thread of sustainability, Australia's Oceans Policy enshrines the theme of a balance of conservation and development. The development of the policy and its implementation have been understandably biased towards areas where theory and practice are well developed. In this regard, much of the focus to date has been on the management of impacts on marine systems, rather than in the lesser-understood area of managing the development of industry.The minerals industry view of oceans policy implementation can be divided into three themes:
Aspects of the industry's position on use of the oceans for transport will be similar to the view expressed by the shipping and port sectors. Under existing protocols, the minerals industry meets regularly with shipping and port associations to coordinate views and advance mutual positions.
Management of coastal industry, both in a planning and regulatory context, has long been a state function. Most states have existing environmental protection and coastal planning laws that can deal adequately with the positions proposed in the Oceans Policy – including integration of land-based impacts on ocean quality.The mineral industry vision is that the multitude of state and federal legislation which covers the interface between land and sea should be streamlined with fewer rather than more statutory interests.
The Oceans Policy calls for the development of management planning for large marine ecosystems with smaller protected areas. In any management planning, the minerals industry supports the principle of multiple use. At its simplest, this means that if uses can be carried out together without one destroying the other, they should be.
A central tenet of multiple use is that activities should be assessed on the basis of their impacts - not on their sectoral affiliation. With the rudimentary development of any minerals industry that draws resources from seawater or the seabed, there is little understanding of what impacts might occur and how these could be managed or mitigated. Management zoning, which precludes mineral exploration or mining outright, is based on some untested assumptions and not consistent with an impacts-based approach.
While there is little prospect of substantial activity in this area in the near future, it would be premature to exclude mineral development from the list of possible uses for ocean resources. The Policy recognises that as technology and knowledge change, resources not currently considered economic may become sound development prospects. Planning decisions made in the short term should not sterilise such assets in perpetuity.
Joint industry-government initiatives to further understanding of marine mineral resources will add to our ability to plan effectively to sustain economic and social development while retaining environmental quality. Topics for inclusion would be:
The mineral resources of the sea are poorly known and engineering solutions to the problems of their extraction are rudimentary or lacking. However, past experience in the industry has shown that technology has advanced over time in similar areas to provide economically attractive solutions.
The future development of a broader base for mineral extraction from the ocean is expected and is currently the subject of research. At present, it is impossible to quantify the value of such development to the nation with any certainty.
Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS)
The suggested format for this short paper is better suited to sectors with commercial interests in the South-east Region. For the conservation sector, our primary concern is ensuring that the public interest, as it relates to protecting marine biological diversity and ensuring that all resource use is ecologically sustainable, is safeguarded, and that there are advocates for the environment per se at the negotiating table.
Undertaking regional marine planning in the South-east Region is a considerable challenge given the range and extent of existing uses and the relatively limited knowledge base available. However it is timely, if not well overdue. The South-east Region includes a wide range of marine habitats that combine to form the 'Unique South'. The southern temperate marine ecosystems of Australia represent some of the most biologically diverse and unique ecosystems in Australia and the world.
The coastline adjacent to these areas is also where Australia's major population base occurs. The uniqueness of these marine areas is due largely to the long period of geological isolation (in contrast with tropical Australia), and the long, ice-free, east-west extent of the southern coastline (the longest in the Southern Hemisphere).
This has produced some of the highest levels of biological diversity and uniqueness (or endemism) in the world. For instance, approximately 95% of all fish, echinoderms and molluscs found in these temperate waters are found nowhere else in Australia, or the world. By comparison, endemism in tropical fauna is approximately 10-15%. Despite the high levels of marine biological diversity and endemism in these regions however, temperate marine environments remain some of the most under-researched and poorly protected environments in Australia.
Of the total area reserved as marine protected areas in Australian coastal waters, well over 90% occur in tropical waters, leaving many regions, particularly temperate ecosystems, poorly or under-represented, if at all. Importantly, as the location of approximately 80% of Australia's population, these temperate marine habitats and ecosystems also represent some of our most threatened marine environments.
Established in 1965 the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has a long and successful history of advocating marine biodiversity conservation and ecologically sustainable use measures around the Australian coastline. Since Australia's ratification in October, 1994 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Convention's entry into force in November, 1994, the AMCS has urged successive Australian governments to prepare and effectively implement an Oceans Policy to meet our national responsibilities for Australia's marine jurisdictions. If Australia is successful, then our experience can be used by other countries also seeking to establish effective management regimes for their marine areas.
In our view integrated regional marine planning is one mechanism for the effective implementation of the Oceans Policy. Our primary concern is to ensure that protection of the marine environment and marine biological diversity is achieved through the development and implementation of the South-east Regional Marine Plan.
Non-government conservation interests contribute to a range of activities in the region including:
As one of the principal tools for delivery of the Oceans Policy, the South-east Regional Marine Plan must have as one of its primary objectives the protection of marine biological diversity, the ocean environment and its resources. Achievement of this objective will require:
Given that the extent of our knowledge of the South-east Region is at best extremely limited, it will be essential to take a highly precautionary approach in any expansion of marine resource use considered as part of the regional marine planning process.
There may, however, be opportunities for increased recreational use of some areas, particularly for recreational scuba diving, as the Region's high marine biodiversity and endemism values become more widely recognised.
We would expect that representatives of the conservation sector will be actively involved in all aspects of planning and managing resource use and protection measures in the region.
The AMCS seeks to establish effective working relations with all sectors. It is our view that protection of Australia's marine environment will only be achieved through a cooperative approach that identifies solutions to problems through an understanding of the marine ecosystems themselves and the social and economic consequences of management decisions.
However, we also believe that at times decisions will need to be made in favour of the environment and the greater public interest, which may be detrimental to some individuals' or communities' specific interests. In such cases where decisions are being made for the public good, then mechanisms need to be identified which will offset these social impacts.
At present, establishing effective working relations generally happens opportunistically, and is frequently focussed around a contentious issue such as establishment of a marine protected area or development of fisheries management plans. There is also the issue for the conservation and other not-for-profit sectors' representatives participating in the process of having adequate technical expertise to allow for useful dialogue on what are often highly technical issues.
Ward, et al. (1997). Australia's Oceans Policy. Issues Paper 7, Biodiversity Conservation. A report commissioned by Environment Australia.
Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN)
The format and layout called for in these reports are obviously better suited to sectoral groups rather than the Marine and Coastal Community Network with its education, communication and conscience raising roles. Hence below I have made a few comments under the relevant headings but it is probably more appropriate to say that the Network is ready and willing to assist in maximising the public understanding and community input into the Regional Marine Plan process. As well we are able to assist other stakeholders in meeting their desired outcomes in the region.
The Marine and Coastal Community Network's (MCCN) interests in the region are predominantly education and communication across all the sectoral interests which operate - including exploitation and conservation. Within the region and specifically related to the Regional Marine Plan we will be looking to maximise the involvement of all sectors and the community in general in taking part and contributing to the development of the Regional Marine Plan.
The Network has four regional coordinators whose work is relevant to the region : Tim Allen (Melbourne, 03 9650 4846), Christian Bell (Hobart, 03 6234 3665), Tony Flaherty (Adelaide, 08 8302 6568) and Craig Bohm (Sydney, 02 9247 4120). The Network has 5,341 participants (70.5 % of the total) registered in the states covered by the Regional Marine Plan.
Major activities in the region related to the Regional Marine Plan include the continued promotion of the concept of Marine Protected Areas and promotion of the Bass Strait Forum to be held in Launceston between the 30th November and 2nd of December this year. As well the Network's usual range of educational and communication activities occur throughout the region.
The Network envisages a significant role in publicising the Regional Marine Plan and in encouraging community debate about the issues raised and stimulating submissions to the public consultation documents. The Network would also like to investigate and assist in encouraging integration between oceans policy development in the region and the existing state coastal policies and strategies.
The Network has often played an ‘honest broker' role in bringing sectors together around specific issues such as ballast water and would hope to play such a role in the South-east Regional Marine Plan as well. The Network can also advise sectors on specific groups and individuals who may be of assistance to the sector's own developments.
Legal Issues Baker & McKenzie (NOAG Legal Adviser) (MCCN)
The role of the National Oceans Advisory Group (NOAG) in relation to legal issues is to advise the National Oceans Ministerial Board as to how effective management of the oceans will be undertaken in a way that is not impeded by legal or cross-jurisdictional issues. Given that certain parameters, including retaining the existing legal framework, have been set, effective coordination of existing Commonwealth and State regimes is the key issue that will have to be resolved.
Nonetheless, the introduction of Australia's Oceans Policy falls within the debate over whether Australia should be implementing an oceans regime that is statute or policy based. Canada has implemented an Oceans Act through which its entire oceans are managed. Such an approach establishes clear jurisdictional control over all ocean areas providing the statutory basis for developing other management regimes such as the proposed Regional Management Plans (RMP) which Australia is seeking to implement.
Alternatively, it is also possible to implement a regime which is based upon the existing legislative framework which, in Australia's case, would include existing Commonwealth and State laws, the Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS) arrangements and use of statutory authorities such as the various state fisheries agencies and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). The RMP process would then fall within this framework and would also require implementation of new regulations where gaps or inconsistencies exist.
Finally, the other alternative is the approach, which Australia has in fact adopted, ie to develop a comprehensive Oceans Policy supplemented by the existing legal regime. At present this is an approach which New Zealand also seems to favour, but [it] raises the legal difficulties noted below.
As legal adviser on the NOAG, the objective is to provide advice to the group on all legal issues associated with implementation of the Oceans Policy and those regional marine plans to be established under the Policy. In this regard, unlike other members there is no particular interest or sector that is being represented.
The South-east RMP includes the waters off Victoria, South-East New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, Macquarie Island and those controlled by the Commonwealth. At the outset therefore development of the South-east RMP will have to deal with a range of cross-jurisdictional legal issues and no doubt inconsistencies in the way in which ocean ecosystems are managed and any activities therein regulated. Substantial coordination between State and Commonwealth agencies for managing the area will be required. Consistency will be required not only within a marine area itself, but also between adjoining future RMP areas particularly where cross-marine ecosystem issues arise.
The situation is not dissimilar from that between Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone and the High Seas. Issues such as migratory fish stocks and cross-jurisdiction pollution flows cannot be managed in the absence of a consistent legal regime. This also means coordinating existing state legislation for the control of marine pollution that originates on land.
The Federal Government has made clear its intention to retain the current legislative framework for dealing with oceans and in particular keep unchanged the Off-shore Constitutional Settlement (OCS) arrangements. There has been a clear preference against developing any new legal regime for the management of Australia's oceans as this would require a major revisitation of the OCS.
Nonetheless, the existing legal and regulatory regimes will need to be assessed, especially in terms of their ability to achieve the RMP and Ocean Policy objectives. Any overriding legal regime must be able to implement and enforce an effective RMP for the South-east Region. If this is not possible then consideration must be given to the implementation of consequential legislation to fill the gaps, as opposed to the introduction of entire new legal regimes. Ultimately however, if existing regimes are simply unable to provide the framework for the introduction of the RMPs, then there will be no option but to consider greater legislative reform. The alternatives to legislation, such as codes of practice and new administrative arrangements, are unlikely to be enforceable and will leave the long-term viability of strong and effective RMPs uncertain.
It is important that consideration is given to resolving these legal issues relating to the establishment, implementation and ongoing regulation under RMPs at the start of the RMP process, rather than at the end. The need to avoid further piecemeal compromises and complex revisions late in the process is very important. Furthermore, as the first marine plan area it is important that early consideration is given to such issues particularly as they are likely to set a precedent when other marine plans are developed.