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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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.

1 February 2008

New Minister appointed

A new Australian Government Minister has been appointed with responsibility for the marine environment with Peter Garrett sworn in as Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts following the election of the Rudd Labor Government in November last year.

Mr Garrett is well known as a former president of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and member of the Australian band Midnight Oil.

Mr Garrett served two terms as president of the ACF. In his first term, from 1989 to 1993, significant results were achieved for many threatened areas of the Australian environment including the Queensland Wet Tropics rainforest and Jervis Bay in NSW. In his second term, the ACF grew strongly, developed partnerships with non-government organisations and business, and expanded its campaigning into marine conservation and northern Australia.

Mr Garrett received the Australian Humanitarian Foundation Award (environment category) in 2000, and in 2003 received the Order of Australia (Member General Division) for his contribution to environment and the music industry.

He is married with three children and lives in Maroubra in Sydney.

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett.

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett.

Minister's Award winner announced

A partnership between schools and an environment group to monitor wild dolphin populations off the South Australian coast has been presented with the Minister's Award for Coastal Custodians.

The Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch project brought together the island's school students and community volunteers with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society of Australasia to monitor and research dolphins and promote their conservation.

On behalf of Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, Senator Dana Wortley presented the Coastal Custodian Award on Kangaroo Island.

"The people of Kangaroo Island seem to have a great affinity with their coastal and marine environments and the tradition is being handed down to a new generation through the Dolphin Watch project," Senator Wortley said.

"Through this project, students, volunteers and the wider community are filling the information gaps about dolphins and other species of cetaceans in the Kangaroo Island area.

"Kangaroo Islanders have beamed this information out in a global webcast through their Dolphin Forum and inspired people of all ages to help protect dolphins and other cetaceans.

KI Dolphin Watch project. Image courtesy of KI Dolphin Watch.

KI Dolphin Watch students and volunteers film a dolphin off the coast of Kangaroo Island. Image courtesy of KI Dolphin Watch.

"These are true coastal custodians, managing their marine and coastal environments to sustain future generations."

The $5000 Minister's Award for Coastal Custodians is awarded annually by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts to mark Coastcare Week.

The win in the award follows a high commendation for Kangaroo Island Community Education's Marine and Environmental Education programme in the 2006 award.

Further closures for grey nurse shark sites

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett has announced an extension of export approval for the New South Wales Ocean Trap and Line Fishery until May 2008.

This is subject to the state government enacting further protection measures for the critically endangered grey nurse shark.

"I am very concerned about the impact of the NSW Ocean Trap and Line Fishery on the critically endangered grey nurse shark," Mr Garrett said.

"I have agreed to allow an extension of export approval until June 30 2008, but this is conditional upon NSW closing additional sensitive areas to fishing by May 2008.

"In particular, NSW must implement fishery closures of appropriate areas for grey nurse sharks at Fish Rock and Green Island, Manta Arch and the Steps/Anemone Bay."

In July 2006, the OTLF received export approval under Commonwealth environment legislation - the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - until 14 December 2007.

The approval was conditional upon the NSW Government implementing fishery closures around key aggregation sites.

Mr Garrett said that while significant progress had been made, he had discussed the need for additional closures with the NSW Minister, Ian MacDonald, who had agreed to take action by May 2008.

"This decision is in the best interests of improving the ecological sustainability of this fishery and increasing of protection for grey nurse sharks," Mr Garrett said.

Grey nurse sharks.

Grey nurse sharks at the Tollgate Islands off Batemans Bay in New South Wales.
Image courtesy David Harasti.

"By the New South Wales Government's own expert's estimates, the east coast population of grey nurse sharks is between 460 and 760 individuals, following a period of severe decline over recent decades. My Department is conducting an independent population estimate in 2008."

The Australian Government is also reviewing the adequacy of protection for the grey nurse shark in Commonwealth waters around the Cod Grounds Marine Reserve and Pimpernel Rock as a result of proceedings in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in late 2007.

Submersible in 2.5 km dive for climate science

Australian and US scientists have been using an unmanned submersible to locate live and fossilised deep-ocean corals south of Tasmania to track changes in climate in the southern hemisphere.

The submersible will dive to depths of 2.5 kilometres and spend up to seven hours filming the corals and other biodiversity.

"Deep ocean corals are a litmus test of the ocean when it comes to identifying how temperature and salinity have changed over decades and centuries, especially in our own region in the Tasman Sea and the Southern Ocean," says Dr Ron Thresher of CSIRO's Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship and Chief Scientist on the voyage.

"By collecting coral samples around the Tasmanian seamounts reserve and other deep ocean ranges south of the State we hope to track two influential elements on the global climate system - the formation of water masses at the Antarctic coast and the circulation of the Southern Ocean."

The platform for research on the 23-day voyage was Australia's Marine National Facility research vessel, the Southern Surveyor.

On loan for the voyage has been the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE), specifically designed for survey work to depths of about 4000 metres and to be used in three locations south of Tasmania: the Tasmanian Seamounts Reserve (now wholly contained within the Huon Commonwealth Marine reserve), the Tasman Fracture Zone and Tasman Rise. The submersible can dive for up to seven hours and its cameras will film locations that can be sampled on a follow-up voyage later this year.

Joining Dr Thresher has been California Institute of Technology Principal Research Scientist Dr Jess Adkins, ocean engineers from Woods Hole in the United States, and CSIRO marine ecologist Dr Alan Williams, who has been measuring marine biodiversity in Australia's recently-declared deepwater South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network.

Dr Williams said that a submersible dive below 1800 metres allowed scientists to view biodiversity at depths never before seen in the Australian region.

An unmanned submersible research robot.

An unmanned submersible research robot - the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE).
Image courtesy Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

"We have a good sense of the marine ecology around seamounts (submerged volcanoes) down to about 1500 metres but to be able to see and build an understanding of life beyond is a tremendously exciting prospect," he said.

The voyage is part of a collaboration between the Australian Government's Wealth from Oceans Flagship, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the National Science Foundation, the Marine and Biodiversity Division of the Australian Government Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and the Marine National Facility.

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia's major research challenges and opportunities. The nine Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia (

International ocean robot project fully deployed

CSIRO's Argo float group. Image courtesy of CSIRO.

CSIRO's Argo float group - (L-R) Project Leader Dr Susan Wijffels, Dr Ann Thresher, Peter Jackson and Bob Weldon - with an Argo float.
Image courtesy of CSIRO.

Efforts to fathom how the oceans influence the world's climate and fisheries productivity have entered a new era.

Argo - a voluntary international project with a Jules Verne flavour has reached its first milestone with the establishment of a network of 3000 ocean robots operating throughout the global oceans.

"Conceived of just seven years ago by a small group of oceanographers, Argo is maturing to be one of ocean science's great steps forward and one from which all countries can benefit," says Dr Susan Wijffels from the Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship.

"Argo will allow us to grapple with some of the big climate questions, as well as provide insight into how the ever-changing ocean weather affects marine ecosystems."

The Argo project has already helped Australian scientists to track how fast and where the ocean is warming due to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, provide a core data stream for the new endeavour of ocean-forecasting and underpin efforts to include the Indian Ocean in forecasting Australian drought/flood cycles.

Using a satellite-based data delivery system, the Argo robots provide ocean forecasters and climate scientists with a detailed sub-surface view of nearly all corners of the world's oceans every 10 days. Vast regions of the Southern Hemisphere oceans, which were previously unmeasurable because of their remoteness and often stormy conditions, are now being systematically probed for the first time.

Reef named in honour of marine park pioneer

Saddled butterflyfish.

Saddled butterflyfish.
Image courtesy GBRMPA.

A reef in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has been named in honour of marine park pioneer Mr David Perkins in recognition of his passion and dedication to the conservation of marine species and ecosystems.

Mr Perkins spent 35 years working in marine park management with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service/ Environmental Protection Agency before passing away unexpectedly last year.

A key figure during the early days of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Mr Perkins was instrumental in laying the foundations for the day-to-day management arrangements for the Great Barrier Reef.

Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Russell Reichelt said Mr Perkins was a highly respected expert in marine parks management and naming a reef in his honour was a fitting gesture.

"His work in setting up and formalising Queensland's role in protecting and conserving the Great Barrier Reef is still seen as visionary over 25 years later."

Perkins Reef is located in the Swains Reef section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Three other reefs have also been named in honour of people who have contributed to the knowledge and management of the Great Barrier Reef:

New measures set for expanding krill fishery

Australia has welcomed a new regulatory regime, which has been set up for the rapidly expanding Southern Ocean krill fishery which is predicted to become one of the world's largest fisheries.

While significantly increasing the catch limits for krill in some areas, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources (CCAMLR) has balanced this with a range of conservation and protection measures proposed by Australia to manage the orderly and precautionary development of the krill fishery.

The leader of the Australian delegation at CCAMLR, Dr Tony Press, the Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, said demand for krill is increasing for use in aquaculture, pharmaceuticals and as food additives.

"Increasing investment in the fishery, new fishing technologies and developing markets for krill oil and other biochemicals make it imperative that the ecosystem is adequately protected before major expansion of the fishery," Dr Press said.

"The measures taken are an important step in ensuring that we gather appropriate scientific information before the expected increase in the harvest of krill."

Dr Press said the annual Total Allowable Catch for the CCAMLR fishery off the coast of eastern Antarctica had been increased significantly on the basis of the latest scientific advice, up from 450,000 tonnes to 2.645 million tonnes.

He said an Australian survey of the krill resources in this area in 2006 had shown that a fishery of this size could be sustained based on an estimated biomass of 28.75 million tonnes in the region.

"Balancing this is a new requirement that all krill vessels fishing the CCAMLR area must participate in the CCAMLR vessel monitoring system and that vessels operating in Eastern Antarctica must have observers aboard.

"The new measures will also require more frequent reporting of krill catches, more rigorous notifications to participate in the krill fishery and new trigger levels so that once a certain catch level is reached, additional management tools will be introduced in order to protect those animals which feed on krill," Dr Press said.

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