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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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

6 June 2008

$100 million package for Australian coasts

Australia's fragile coasts and beaches will benefit from a $100 million Community Coastcare package launched by Environment Minister, Peter Garrett.

The new investment, jointly administered by Minister Garrett and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister, Tony Burke is part of the Australian Government's $2.25 billion Caring for our Country initiative, and will help local communities undertake vital beach and coastal protection and restoration projects around the country.

Mr Garrett said Community Coastcare would draw upon the wealth of community skills and knowledge of our coast and beaches, providing grants to community groups for projects to protect and improve the environmental values of the nation's coastline.

"Australians have a deep affinity with our precious coasts and beaches and the Government recognises there is an urgent need to better protect them," Mr Garrett said.

"Through Community Coastcare the Government will help fund local community action to protect and rehabilitate our coastal environment and critical habitats."

Cape to Cape Clean-up volunteers

Heidi Taylor and volunteers with rubbish collected on the Western Australian Cape to Cape Clean Up. Winners of the 2005 Minister's Award for Coastal Custodians.

Community Coastcare will offer communities grants up to $50,000. Grants of up to $250,000 will also be available for larger-scale works that are targeted in high priority coastal areas. Up to $20 million in 2008-09 would be provided for a range of activities varying from protecting nesting sites for endangered species to restoring sand dunes and preventing coastal erosion to educating people about the affects of global warming and climate change.

Mr Burke urged all eligible groups to apply for the funding. "I would encourage a range of groups to apply, including farmers, landcare groups, surf clubs, Indigenous groups, schools, local councils and regional natural resource management bodies," Mr Burke said.

For more information including application forms visit:

Iceland's resumption of whaling criticised

Minke whale

Minke whale. Image courtesy of Matt Curnock.

Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett has condemned the decision of Iceland to issue a unilateral quota for 40 minke whales to be killed in the North Atlantic this year.

"The Australian Government is extremely disappointed that Iceland will resume whaling, in defiance of the moratorium on commercial whaling and just one month before the countries of the world gather to discuss the future of whale conservation and management," Mr Garrett said.

"The practice of commercial whaling is out of step with the international community and out of touch with modern oceans management."

Iceland argues that it is entitled to hunt whales because when it resumed its membership of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) it lodged a reservation to the moratorium on commercial whaling. This reservation is not recognised by many countries.

"Whether it is under an objection or under the pretext of scientific research, commercial whaling only exists today by virtue of loopholes and opt-outs," said Mr Garrett.

"Australia opposes all forms of commercial whaling, and therefore I call upon Iceland to reverse its decision."

Iceland's whaling quota is not endorsed by the International Whaling Commission or its Scientific Committee. In August 2007, Iceland indicated it had decided not to issue further quotas for whaling, given the lack of demand for whale meat.

"I will be tabling constructive proposals at the June meeting of the IWC, and as I have stated in response to the whaling programs of Norway and Japan, the capacity for countries to 'opt out' of the moratorium is a critical failure that needs to be addressed.

"The global moratorium is compromised so long as there are governments that award themselves unilateral whaling quotas," Mr Garrett said.

"In Australia we stopped whaling three decades ago. Now we have a whale watching industry which injects over $300 million into the national economy through tourism every year."

Progress report on Australia's Marine Protected Areas

Blue-spotted fantail ray

Blue-spotted fantail ray, Mermaid Reef Marine National Nature Reserve, north-west Australia. Picture: Naomi Wolfe.

Australian governments have endorsed a report that found Australia had made strong progress towards a national system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2012.

The report - Progress in Implementing the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas - was endorsed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers at the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council.

The report notes that a 164 per cent increase in the area under marine reserve over the past 10 years demonstrated the commitment of the governments of Australia to marine environment protection and biodiversity conservation.

According to the national protected areas database*, the total area of MPAs in Australia's Commonwealth, state and territory waters increased from 387,000 km2 in 1997 to 880,000 km2 in 2008.

In the early 1990s, Australian governments identified a need to establish MPAs to protect representative examples of the full range of ecosystems and habitats. MPAs are regarded internationally as one of the most effective mechanisms to protect biodiversity while permitting the sustainable use of resources, where possible.

The commitment to the national system of MPAs fulfils Australia's international responsibilities and obligations as a signatory to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity.

The report notes recent achievements such as:

Copies of the report can be found at the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas website at:

*The report includes 2004 figures from the national Collaborative Australian Protected Areas Database (CAPAD) and other information current at 2007. For recent information on MPAs around Australia, go to relevant websites of the Commonwealth, States and Northern Territory agencies responsible for MPA development and management.

Australia welcomes Chilean move to protect whales

The Australian Government has welcomed the move by International Whaling Commission conference host Chile to make its territorial waters a whale sanctuary.

Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett described the Chilean move as an "excellent initiative", which was obviously timed to send a clear message of rejection to whaling nations attending the IWC gathering in Santiago.

A humpback whale breaches

A humpback whale breaches. Image courtesy of Mark Farrell.

"This decision highlights the increasingly isolated position of pro-whaling countries and acts to effect the popular will of the Chilean people," Mr Garrett said.

"Sanctuaries such as this are important links with those around Australia and some Pacific islands to protect migratory whale populations where they breed and feed.

Japan will come under increasing pressure to end its so-called scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean when the 79 IWC members meet to discuss the future course of international whaling activity and conservation.

Darren Kindleysides, campaign manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said the very future of the IWC itself would be contested next month in Chile.

"For the host nation to declare its waters a whale sanctuary sends a very strong signal that, despite the protestations of the whaling nations, the future of the IWC lies with whale conservation, not whale hunting," he said.

Australia will push for the IWC to end the unilateral issuing of research whaling permits that countries such as Japan get by exploiting a loophole in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Mr Garrett said Australia would propose a new path for the IWC, focusing not on whaling but on protecting whale populations from the full range of threats to their recovery.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared her intention, during a national address last week, to send legislation to Parliament that would ban all whale hunting activity in Chile's sizeable territorial waters.

Funding boost for whales research

A $1 million funding boost to the Hobart-based Australian Marine Mammal Centre would advance Australia's push for reform of the International Whaling Commission based on non-lethal collaborative science and conservation, Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett said.

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett

Mr Garrett said this critical funding commitment to marine mammal science demonstrated the high priority Australia places on research and conservation.

"This $1 million grant is a demonstration of the Australian Government's determination to modernise the IWC with a reform agenda based on rigorous research, as opposed to so called 'scientific whaling'," Mr Garrett said.

"The Australian Marine Mammal Centre, hosted at the Australian Antarctic Division since 2005, is the only national research centre dedicated to the understanding and conservation of whales, dolphins, seals and dugongs.

"Australia is charting a new course with a proposal for modernising the IWC, emphasising the conservation of living whales as opposed to setting quotas for dead ones.

"The allocation of this extra funding will advance Australia's science-based proposal to modernise the IWC," Mr Garrett said.

Australia is at the forefront of attempts to modernise the IWC, presenting its proposal Whale Conservation and Management: A Future for the IWC at an intersessional meeting earlier this year. The proposal contains three main initiatives - internationally agreed, cooperative conservation plans for whales; collaborative research programs; and reforming the management of science, including an end to unilaterally granted special permit scientific whaling.

The new funding will include about $600,000 to supplement the existing competitive marine mammal research fund and about $400,000 for activities in support of the Government's policies, including work towards the establishment of the first IWC conservation management plan and a Southern Ocean non-lethal whale research partnership.

"Australians can be proud of the world-leading research we are undertaking on whales and other marine mammals," Mr Garrett said.

"Australia's research program will continue to demonstrate to the world that Japan's so called 'scientific' whaling has been superseded by more modern methods, like that led by the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, allowing future generations to enjoy living whales as much as we do."

'Brittlestar City' discovered south of New Zealand

Brittlestar City on a seamount south of New Zealand. Image: National Institute and Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand, 2008.

'Brittlestar City'. Image: NIWA, 2008.

Census of Marine Life-affiliated scientists, plumbing the secrets of a vast underwater mountain range south of New Zealand have captured the first images of a novel "Brittlestar City" that colonised against daunting odds the peak of a seamount - an underwater summit taller than the world's tallest building.

Its cramped starfish-like inhabitants, tens of millions living arm tip to arm tip, owe their success to the seamount's shape and to the swirling circumpolar current flowing over and around it at roughly four kilometers per hour. It allows Brittlestar City's underwater denizens to capture passing food simply by raising their arms, and it sweeps away fish and other hovering would-be predators.

Discovery of this marine metropolis, along with important new insights into seamount geology and physics, highlighted a month-long April expedition to survey the Macquarie Ridge aboard the Research Vessel Tangaroa of New Zealand's National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, host of the Census of Marine Life seamount programme, CenSeam. The voyage was largely funded by the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

For more images and video of 'Brittlestar City' and information on the Census of Marine Life, visit:

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