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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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

7 March 2008

Australia charts new course on international whale conservation

As part of the Government's unprecedented actions to stop commercial whaling, Australia will present a proposal to modernise the International Whaling Commission at a meeting in London in early March.

Whales migrate thousands of kilometres each year, and their conservation is a global responsibility. The IWC is the primary body which sets international rules on whaling.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett said the Australian Government was resolutely opposed to commercial whaling by any country in whatever guise. We are committed to exploring every avenue to bring commercial whaling to an end, including through the IWC.

"We believe it is time to bring the IWC into the 21st century, equipping the Commission to tackle contemporary challenges in whale conservation and management," Mr Garrett said.

"We propose three key changes:

"Australia's future proposal for the IWC recognises that the modem world sees whale watching rather than whale hunting as the most sustainable, valuable and ethical 'use' of whales.

"These reforms would build on the IWC's crucial global moratorium on commercial whaling and whale sanctuaries in the Indian and Southern Oceans – now breached by the 'scientific' loophole and objections.

"No one country can achieve these reforms alone, and success will not be achieved overnight, but the Rudd Government will work hard to persuade all countries that the IWC should take these steps.

"Australia puts forward these proposals in a spirit of common agreement, despite the acknowledged differences among IWC members.
"The Rudd Government is committed to stopping commercial and so-called 'scientific' whaling permanently.

"I will attend the annual meeting of the IWC in Chile in early June, where we will keep working on these issues, together with other anti-whaling countries.

"We will also continue to explore a range of avenues to bring commercial whaling to an end," Mr Garrett said.

The Australian Government’s vision for the future of the IWC is outlined in a paper which can be found at

Green sawfish listed as vulnerable in Seaweek

A green sawfish (Pristis zijsron)

A green sawfish (Pristis zijsron) with an acoustic tag on a time release. Image courtesy Stirling Peverell, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.

To mark Seaweek 2008, the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced the green sawfish (Pristis zijsron) has been listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

"This listing will make it illegal to kill, harm or take green sawfish in Commonwealth waters,’’ Mr Garrett said.

"This year’s Seaweek is focussed on conserving the sawfish, and this listing will mean that the green sawfish receives added protection in habitats between three nautical miles from shore out to the 200 nautical mile limit.

"The green sawfish faces ongoing threats from accidental catch in fishing nets, from illegal fishing for fins and rostrums – the distinctive saw-toothed snouts – and from habitat degradation through coastal development.

"Catch records tell us that this species may now be virtually extinct in south-east Asia and that northern Australia may be the last region where significant populations remain.

"Even in Australian waters, the green sawfish has contracted to the north. It was once recorded on the east coast as far south as Jervis Bay on the New South Wales coast, but is now rarely found south of Cairns," Mr Garrett said.

The green sawfish is listed as endangered in New South Wales waters, vulnerable in the Northern Territory and totally protected in Western Australia.

The green sawfish is a species of large ray from the family Pristidae. It has a large shark-like body, a flattened head and an elongated snout, which is studded with 24 to 28 pairs of rostral teeth, commonly described as a saw. Mature adult green sawfish can grow to five metres in Australian waters.

In Australian waters, green sawfish have historically been recorded in coastal waters off Broome, Western Australia, around northern Australia and down the east coast. In recent years their range on the east coast has now contracted north and they are now rarely found south of Cairns. They are most commonly found on the floors of estuaries, river mouths and along sandy and muddy beaches. Their toothed rostrums, combined with their active hunting behaviour, make them highly susceptible to capture in all fisheries that use nets. They are also threatened by illegal poaching by foreign vessels for their fins and rostrums.

Seaweek is an initiative of the Marine Education Society of Australasia. It runs from 2-8 March 2008. For more details, go to:

Resolution to fisheries appeal welcomed

Australian sea lion. Image courtesy Allan Fox, DEWHA

Changes will give greater protection to Australian sea lions. Image courtesy Allan Fox, DEWHA.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, has welcomed a negotiated outcome regarding export approval for one of Australia’s most important Commonwealth-managed fisheries

The negotiated outcome follows an appeal by the Humane Society International to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal relating to the export approval granted by former Environment Minister Senator Ian
Campbell for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF).

"This negotiated outcome means expensive and protracted litigation has been avoided," Mr Garrett said.
"I am pleased that my Department, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Humane Society have negotiated a revised set of environmental conditions relating to the export of a range of species from this fishery.

"These additional conditions are designed to give greater protection to species such as the eastern gemfish, Australian sea lions, seabirds and Harrisson’s dogfish.

"The successful resolution of this matter is a win for both the environment and the fishing industry," Mr Garrett said.

The SESSF is a complex, multi-species fishery that operates from just north of the Queensland border to Cape Leeuwin in south-west Western Australia. It encompasses almost half of the Australian

Fishing Zone. The fishery operates in both state and Commonwealth waters and is one of the highest value Commonwealth-managed fisheries, with landings of more than 35,000 tonnes annually and a gross value of $81 million in 2005-06.

Export approval extended for southern bluefin tuna

Catching southern bluefin tuna

A fisherman catches a southern bluefin tuna for tagging and release. Image courtesy CSIRO.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, has extended the export approval for the $200 million Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery for 28 months until mid-2010.

"I granted the extension following an assessment of the sustainability of the fishery by my Department, who advised me that the extension will not be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of the species in the short term," Mr Garrett said.

Southern bluefin tuna fisheries are internationally managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna.

"While there are continued concerns regarding the conservation status of the southern bluefin tuna, I consider that the Commission’s recent 21 per cent reduction of the global total allowable catch is a significant step forward towards sustainability, "Mr Garrett said.  

"The fact that Australia’s component of the global catch was not reduced by the Commission is a vote of confidence in Australia’s domestic management of this fishery."

The Scientific Committee of the Commission will undertake a new stock assessment, reporting in late 2009.

"The extension of export approval to mid-2010 recognises that we will then have available the new stock assessment, following three years of reductions in the total global catch," Mr Garrett said.

"I also anticipate advice from my Threatened Species Scientific Committee by September 2009 on a nomination for the listing of the southern bluefin tuna under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).

"There will be more certainty of the status of the stocks, including necessary scientific analysis, to assist in the next export approval decision in 2010," Mr Garrett said.

New interim management arrangements put in place for Solitary Islands Marine Reserve

The Solitary Islands

An aerial view of the Solitary Islands near Coffs Harbour, NSW. Image courtesy Jim Keenan, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

New interim management arrangements will be in place from 4 April 2008 for the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve (Commonwealth Waters).

The changes will see the existing Management Plan, which regulated activities in the Reserve, cease to have effect on 3 April 2008. 

All commercial fishers, commercial tour operators and charter fishers who wish to operate within the Reserve are required to apply for an approval to carry out their activities after 3 April 2008.  This includes fishers who wish to operate in the General Use Zone of the Reserve. The approval they are given will include conditions under which their activities must be conducted.

Existing permit holders will be sent an approval package, including an application for an approval. Anyone who doesn‘t currently hold a permit and wishes to carry out commercial activities or commercial fishing within the Commonwealth Reserve, should obtain an application for an approval either by contacting the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve Manager on (02) 6274 1111, email or visit the web site below.

All application for approvals must be lodged by 17 March 2008.

Please note that all existing arrangements for the management of the Sanctuary Zone of 500 metres surrounding Pimpernel Rock will continue.  These arrangements include:

Further information on the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve is available at:

Customs and Navy stop trepang poachers in Torres Strait

A trepang or sea cucumber

A trepang or sea cucumber. Image courtesy Steve Strike, DEWHA.

Crews of Customs and Navy patrol vessels, supported by Fisheries officers, have apprehended eight fishing boats and 71 crew who were found to be fishing illegally in the Torres Strait.

Border Protection Command coordinated the response to sightings by Coastwatch aircraft of trepang poachers operating in Australian waters around Warrior Reef.

The operation involved three Customs patrol boats and two Navy vessels.

Eight motorized 'banana boats' were apprehended and towed to Thursday Island where they are being held by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

A total of 71 Papua New Guinean (PNG) fishers were detained. Consistent with the provisions of the Torres Strait Treaty between Australia and PNG, all of the fishers were taken to Daru Island and handed over to PNG authorities and their boats were seized.

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