1 June 2007
A population of the critically endangered grey nurse shark will be protected with the declaration of the Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve off the coast of Laurieton in New South Wales.
The 300 hectare Australian Government reserve came into effect on 28 May 2007. It will protect prime habitat for grey nurse sharks at the Cod Grounds - a series of underwater pinnacles and one of the most important aggregation sites for the species.
The Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark, prepared by the Department of the Environment and Water Resources, recommends the Cod Grounds be declared as a sanctuary zone, as it provides critical habitat for the grey nurse shark for feeding and reproduction. The species is in decline and highly vulnerable to extinction due to its low reproduction rate as well as fishing-related mortality.
The Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve has been declared as a strict nature reserve and will be managed to ensure the undersea ecosystem and native species are protected. All commercial and recreational fishing will be prohibited in the Reserve.
The Department of the Environment and Water Resources has made arrangements with the NSW Department of Primary Industries to carry out compliance and enforcement activities within the Reserve.
The Australian Government is in the process of buying out the licences of several commercial fishermen who have a history of fishing at the Cod Grounds. Adjustment assistance will also be considered for fishing cooperatives impacted by the buy-out.
Grey nurse sharks at Broughton Island off the NSW Coast. Courtesy David Harasti.
Further details of management arrangements, maps and grid references are available on the Department of the Environment and Water Resources website at: www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mpa/cod-grounds/index.html
Fisheries Ministers from 10 countries last month endorsed a Regional Plan of Action to promote responsible fishing practices and combat illegal fishing in the South-east Asian region.
The plan was signed at a regional ministerial meeting held in Bali in Indonesia and was a joint initiative by Australia and Indonesia to discuss measures to address the shared problems of illegal fishing in the South-east Asian region.
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation Senator Eric Abetz said that while Australia was seeing increasing success in its efforts to reduce illegal fishing in Australia's waters due to its tough enforcement policy, it was also important to work closely with other countries to address illegal and unregulated fishing in the region.
Customs officers boarding a fishing boat. Courtesy Australian Customs.
"This year, largely due to our tough approach, sightings of illegal vessels in our waters are down by 75 per cent, which is very encouraging," the Minister said.
"By working with neighbouring countries to tackle the problem in their waters, we can further reduce incursions from poachers seeking to enter Australian waters where fish stocks are in better condition.
Key points of the Regional Action Plan are to:
- build upon current international agreements to ensure long-term sustainable fisheries;
- collect and manage accurate fishing information;
- control the size of fishing fleets at a sustainable level, to return the most benefit to communities and reduce illegal fishing activity; and
- co-ordinate management at the flag, port and market level to eliminate the trade path of illegal fishing.
The Regional Plan of Action was endorsed by Australia, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, East Timor, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Singapore and Thailand.
Ashmore Island. Courtesy Suzanne Ferguson.
The Australian Government will commit an additional $31.7 million over the next four years to increase protection of the environmentally sensitive Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island Marine Reserves off north-western Australia.
The Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve and nearby Cartier Island Marine Reserve are located in the Indian Ocean, approximately 320 km off Australia's coast, but only 150 kilometres south of the Indonesian island of Roti. The two reserves cover an area of 750 square kilometres.
The Minister for Justice and Customs Senator David Johnston and the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the increased surveillance.
The funding in the 2007-08 Budget will allow Customs to procure a dedicated vessel to be based at Ashmore Islands, which will ensure better protection against illegal foreign fishing.
Mr Turnbull said while traditional Indonesian fishermen were allowed in the area under a Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and Indonesia, they were not allowed to fish in the reserves.
"This is an important breeding and feeding area for rare seabirds, sharks, turtles and dugongs,'' Mr Turnbull said.
"Increasing surveillance is a further indication of Australia's commitment to conserving these internationally recognised marine parks."
Senator Johnston said Customs had already sought tenders for a suitable vessel to be acquired on a charter basis.
"The new vessel will enable Customs and Environment officers to undertake patrols of the reserves and associated island and reef ecosystems and allow other Customs boats to undertake the wide ranging, high-speed operations they were designed for," Senator Johnston said.
Coral cod on the Great Barrier Reef. Courtesy GBRMPA.
Protection for Australia's World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will be strengthened with $15.6 million in new funding in the 2007-08 federal Budget, the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull has announced.
"One of the greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, arguably second only to climate change, is poor water quality," Mr Turnbull said.
"This Budget commits a further $14.2 million over four years from the Natural Heritage Trust to comprehensive monitoring and reporting of water quality and ecosystem health of the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.
"This funding will also help to gauge the success of strategies being implemented to improve water quality. This includes the ongoing implementation of the 10-year Reef Water Quality Plan agreed to by the Australian and Queensland Governments in 2003 to halt and reverse the decline in water quality from land based sources, with about 26 rivers flowing into reef waters.
"Another $15.6 million over four years will support the day-to-day management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park This follows the recent increase in levels of protection within the Marine Park and last year's comprehensive review of the Marine Park legislation.
"The Great Barrier Reef is one of our greatest natural and economic assets. It supports a $5.1 billion per year tourism industry in the region, with approximately 1.9 million tourists visiting the Marine Park each year.
A mural at the Henley Beach Marine Discovery Centre. Courtesy of the Centre.
Funding made available last month to the Henley Beach Marine Discovery Centre will help educate future generations about responsible fishing practices and management of fish stocks for all recreational fishers.
Minister of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries Senator Eric Abetz launched the project, which was funded under Round 4 of the Recreational Fishing Community Grant Programme.
"The younger generations who go out fishing with their mums and dads on the weekend will benefit from this sort of education. They need to know about minimum sizes, catch limits and boat limits and also the reasons why these rules are in place," Senator Abetz said.
The $98,543 being provided by the Australian Government to this project will see the creation of new sustainable fishing displays, the collection of target fish species to facilitate an increase in stock, the installation of a new aquarium at the marine centre and back-up power facilities along with various educational tools such as online quizzes and charts for students.
For further details about the Recreational Fishing Community Grants Programme, visit the web site: www.daff.gov.au/recfishinggrants or call 1800 665 105.
Australian sea lion. Courtesy David Muirhead, MLSSA.
The Australian Government has announced $800,000 in funding for 15 new research projects on the management and conservation of marine mammals.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull said the projects would be undertaken through the Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science, housed at the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart.
"This priority research will focus on whales, dolphins, sea lions and dugongs in Australian waters," Mr Turnbull said.
"In particular, it will investigate marine mammal population structure, distribution and abundance, population threats, management of risk and mitigation and non-lethal study techniques."
In 2006, the Australian Government set aside $2.5 million over four years for the Centre.
This new funding has been allocated from the Government's $100 million Commonwealth Environment Research Facility and Natural Heritage Trust fund.
- studying the social dynamics of mass stranding of long-finned pilot whales in Tasmania;
- estimating the abundance of the east Australian humpback whale population;
- satellite tracking of baleen whales;
- developing monitoring methods for the threatened Australian sea lion;
- looking at interactions between gillnet fisheries and Australian sea lions in WA;
- studying dugong numbers and distribution in the Gulf of Carpentaria; and
- management agencies in Torres Strait.
For more information on these and other projects see: www.aad.gov.au/acamms
Pacific seastar. Courtesy CSIRO.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Fisheries and Conservation Senator Eric Abetz last month launched a national programme to reduce the risk and damage to Australia's unique marine environment from aquatic pests.
The Australian Government has allocated $14.8 million over four years to implement the National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions.
Mr Turnbull said the system would establish national legislation for ballast water and regulations to ensure vessels entering Australia are not fouled with marine pests.
"This decision will ensure that Australia meets its obligations as a signatory to the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments," Mr Turnbull said.
Senator Eric Abetz described the Pacific seastar as the marine equivalent of the cane toad and said the species was having a serious impact on fishing activities and native species in Hobart's Derwent Estuary.