4 May 2007
Projects to assess the impact of climate change on the marine environment and adaptation will be among those considered following working group meetings of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum on the Gold Coast last week.
Representatives from 18 APEC member economies attended the week-long meetings of the Marine Resources Conservation and Fisheries Working Groups between 23-27 April, culminating in a joint session.
A number of opportunities for collaboration, information exchange and expert networks will be considered for APEC funding from the meetings, all of which would be implemented across the Asia-Pacific region. These include projects on the impact of climate change on the marine environment.
Other priority areas of interest and future action agreed by all delegates were marine invasive species and their economic consequences, marine debris, marine protected areas, aquaculture, vulnerable marine ecosystems, food safety, fish as indicators of ecosystem health, fisheries data, ecosystem based management and biodiversity hot spots.
The working group meetings provide Australia with a forum to pursue important issues of mutual interest within the Asia-Pacific region.
The Australian Government's work to increase the number of Marine Protected Areas within Commonwealth waters has been acknowledged by a Senate Committee.
The Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Standing Committee released its "Conserving Australia" report into Australia's national parks, conservation reserves and marine protected areas in April.
The report noted that with one third of the planet's marine reserves in Australian waters, the national reserve system had the potential to become a blueprint for the rest of the world.
The Committee was also impressed by the resource management, interagency work and public consultation by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
The report says that despite a diverse range of views within the community, Australians value their national parks, conservation reserves and Marine Protected Areas.
Nautilus shell, Ashmore Reef Marine National Nature Reserve, courtesy AIMS.
Among the findings of the Committee were:
- Australia's conservation estate contributes significantly to the environmental, social, cultural and economic wealth of the Australian community;
- The reserve system remains a very cost-effective way of conserving biodiversity;
- The conservation estate has been growing steadily for many years, and much of the current growth is in the marine reserve system. Planning for the future of the reserve system is based on the aim of creating a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system. The reserve system faces many threats to its sustainability and to the quality of its ecosystems. The marine reserve system faces special challenges in managing the effects of over-fishing.
- Effective public consultation and planning processes are important in maintaining confidence in the park system and its managers. There is room for improvement in these processes, particularly in the adequate and early engagement with stakeholders.
The full report and the list of recommendations can be found at:
Sperm whale in Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania, image courtesy of Rick Eaves.
The Australian Government co-sponsored a major workshop in Tasmania during April to help strengthen our protection for whales.
The Department of the Environment and Water Resources hosted the fifth Disentanglement Workshop in Hobart in conjunction with the Tasmanian Department for Primary Industries and Water.
"The workshops promote the use of best practice methods for disentangling whales from fishing gear and shark nets and the importance in having highly trained personnel around the country to respond to entanglement incidents," Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull said.
The workshop consisted of one day of theory and one day of intensive practical training on the water, specifically focused on training Australian and State Government employees.
"This is just one of the many ways that the Australian Government is protecting whales and we remain committed to looking for opportunities to improve what we do," Mr Turnbull said.
"Australia has been a driving force behind strong whale conservation efforts internationally through the International Whaling Commission and domestically through legislative protection and initiatives to protect whales in Australian waters."
A special feature of the workshop was the attendance of Mr Scott Landry from the Provincetown Centre for Coastal Studies (CCS) in the United States, who presented information on the CCS' experiences in large whale disentanglements. The CCS is a world leader in this field.
Mr Doug Coughran, one of Australia's leading experts on large whale disentanglements from the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation, also contributed to the workshop, presenting information on disentangling whales and training people in practical exercises.
More than 45 representatives from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and West Australian Government agencies attended the workshop.
One of the new patrol boats (digitally altered to include Customs logo), courtesy Australian Customs Service.
The Australian Government has taken another step to increase the nation's border protection capability with the commissioning last month of four new medium sized patrol boats for the Australian Customs Service.
The Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator David Johnston, said Customs has signed a contract for the delivery of four new vessels, worth $3.5 million, that will enhance the agency's ability to deal with illegal vessels in Australia's northern waters.
"This initiative is part of the Howard Government's $389 million plan to deal with illegal fishing in our northern waters. These vessels will provide valuable support to Customs and Navy patrol boats that are already responding to and apprehending illegal vessels," Senator Johnston said.
"Customs undertook a thorough tender process before selecting Stebercraft Pty Ltd, which is based in Taree in NSW, to build the new vessels."
The patrol boats will be stationed at Darwin, Thursday Island, Gove and Weipa.
Short-headed seahorse, courtesy Marine Life Society South Australia.
They will be used primarily to transfer illegal foreign fishers from larger Customs and Navy vessels to the shore for processing, which will allow the larger vessels to return to patrol areas more quickly.
The new vessels have also been designed to conduct limited inshore patrols to helps support border protection activities.
The first of the four vessels is expected to be delivered by July with the remaining patrol boats rolled-out by December 2007.
"Marine science in a changing world'' is the theme for the Australian Marine Sciences Association annual conference in 2007.
The conference will be held at the University of Melbourne from 9-13 July.
For further details, go to www.amsa.asn.au