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Coasts and Oceans


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

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

4 August 2006

National whale and dolphin research centre established

Australia's first national research centre for the protection and conservation of whales and dolphins will be established by the Australian Government at Hobart's Australian Antarctic Division.

Minister for the Environment and Heritage Senator Ian Campbell said the Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science will build on existing knowledge and address critical gaps in understanding about the conservation of Australia's 40 species of whales and dolphins, as well as our 10 species of seals and our dugongs.

"This Australian-first centre is a great boost for the conservation of our marine mammals," Senator Campbell said.

"We have long held much of the world's expertise in the protection of marine mammals and this centre will provide us with the wherewithal to bring that expertise together."

Senator Campbell said funding of $2.5 million over four years would establish the centre as Australia's first high profile, internationally competitive research hub on marine mammals.

"Having a dedicated facility will formalise and strengthen the links within Australia's marine mammal research community, creating better communication and information sharing and helping to develop strong industry partnerships," he said.

A migrating humpback whale off Byron Bay, NSW.

A migrating humpback whale off Byron Bay, NSW. Photo courtesy of the Pacific Whale Foundation.

"The information it gathers will be critical for developing and implementing government policy and management decisions".

"The centre's work will be especially important as we continue our efforts to convince pro-whaling nations of the benefits of non-lethal scientific research on whales".

"Non-lethal study techniques, the effect of noise on whales, improved methods to estimate population numbers and human interaction impacts are just some priorities for the new facility."

Senator Campbell said the new centre would be funded through the Australian Government's $100 million Commonwealth Environment Research Facility (CERF) programme.

CERF will encourage and assist collaborative research into priority issues, bringing institutions together to bridge knowledge gaps and contribute to the development of environmental policy.

For more information about protection of marine mammals and the CERF programme, see

New species data now available for public use

Two major Australian Government agencies have committed to publicly share their datasets through the Australian Node of the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS).

The commitment, by the Bureau of Rural Sciences and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, will bring an additional 65,000 records online for free public access.

A typical screen shot from the OBIS portal.

A screen shot from the OBIS portal showing the distribution of a marine species in Australian waters.

The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) is an international federation of organisations and people sharing a vision to make marine biogeographic data, from all over the world, freely available over the internet. It functions as a web-based provider of global geo-referenced information on marine species.

It provides a single entry point to query expert databases on species and habitats and provides a variety of tools for visualising relationships between marine species and their environment. OBIS is also the information component of the Census of Marine Life Program.

OBIS Australia is a partnership between the Department of the Environment and Heritage and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research. It is also supported in its start-up phase by funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a United States based philanthropic organisation administered via the international OBIS Secretariat. OBIS datasets are available through the Australian node at or via the international portal at

$6 million for world-class marine and tropical science research

Research on conservation of the Great Barrier Reef will be boosted with the Australian Government's commitment of more than $6 million to the Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility based at James Cook University in 2006-07.

Minister for the Environment and Heritage Senator Ian Campbell said the campuses in Cairns and Townsville would benefit from the research plan, which covers:

A marine scientist at work.

A marine scientist at work. Image courtesy of CSIRO

"This Australian Government funding will support collaborative research that draws on the expertise of leading scientists and research organisations," Senator Campbell said.

"Research produced through this project will help ensure the protection, conservation, sustainable use and management of Australia's environmental assets," he said.

Among the 38 projects being funded are:

For more information go to

Boundary change for Northern Marine Region

An adjustment has been made to the western boundary of the Northern Marine Region to improve the efficiency of the Marine Bioregional Planning process.

The Northern Marine Region will now extend from the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory in the west through to Cape York Peninsula in the east.

A map of the Northern Marine Region showing the new western boundary

A map of the Northern Marine Region showing the new western boundary

The boundary between the North and North-west Marine Regions is now in accordance with the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act (1982).

The adjustment to the western boundary will ensure that marine planning in waters off the Northern Territory will involve only one Commonwealth process (which will include the identification of Marine Protected Areas) and align with Territory-based marine programmes.

The Department of the Environment and Heritage has begun collecting information collation in the Northern Marine Region taking into account the boundary change. The values of the region will be reported upon in the Northern Marine Regional Profile - the first major product of from the region under Marine Bioregional Planning.

For further information on the Marine Bioregional Planning process in the Northern Marine Region, please contact Ms Bernadette O'Neil, Director North Planning Team on (02) 6274 1068.

Ghost net project wins a Banksia Award

A project to rid the coastline of the Gulf of Carpentaria of 'ghost nets' has been recognised in the national Banksia Awards.

The Carpentaria Ghost Net Programme is an initiative of the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group Ltd - a non-profit community-based company. It won the marine category of the Banksia Awards, announced in July.

This hawksbill turtle was a victim of a ghost net found at Cape Arnhem.

This hawksbill turtle was a victim of a ghost net found at Cape Arnhem. Photo courtesy of Ilse Kiessling

The programme provided resources to Queensland and Northern Territory Indigenous communities to clean up tonnes of adrift fishing nets that have accumulated on the Gulf coastline and pose a major risk for marine life including turtles and dugong.

More than five kilometres of netting was removed under the initiative, ensuring that it doesn't wash back into Gulf waters and pose a further risk to marine life.

Minister for the Environment and Heritage Senator Ian Campbell congratulated the Group for their efforts.

"This project is helping Indigenous communities all around the Gulf of Carpentaria find ways to work together to get rid of marine debris in their sea country," Senator Campbell said.

The Australian Government contributed about $2 million to the project through the Natural Heritage Trust.

Technology focus of Fish Biology Workshop

A fish is pinned for scientific research during the NORFANZ voyage.

A fish is pinned for scientific research during the NORFANZ voyage. Image courtesy of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, New Zealand's Ministry of Fisheries and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, NZ.

Cutting Edge Technologies In Fish And Fisheries Science is the theme of a workshop to be held as part of the 2006 Australian Society of Fish Biology Conference in Hobart later this month.

The aim of the workshop is to demonstrate the application of new technologies and techniques in the study of aquatic systems. The workshop will be held on 28-29 August with the conference to run from 31 August to 1 September.

Examples of technologies and techniques include smart tags, acoustic tracking, hydro-acoustics, remote sensing, habitat classification, underwater visual systems, electronic data capture and genetic and microchemistry applications.

The Society was founded in 1971 with the objectives of promoting research, education and management of fish and fisheries in Australia and to provide a forum for the exchange of information.

Delegates can register online at

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