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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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

Our Sea, Our Future
Major findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia

Compiled by Leon P. Zann
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville Queensland

Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra (1995)
ISBN 0 642 17391 5

8. Future directions in marine environmental management

Global concerns: UNCED Conference

The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was convened because of widespread concerns about the degradation of the environment and the loss of global biodiversity.(92),(96)

With respect to the ocean, UNCED recommended that all nations: (1) prevent, reduce, and control degradation of the marine environment so as to maintain and improve its life-support and productive capacities; (2) develop and increase the potential of marine living resources to meet human nutritional needs, as well as social, economic, and development needs; and (3) promote the integrated management and sustainable development of coastal areas and the marine environment.(92)

UNCED recognised that the achievement of these will require new strategies in marine environmental management, ones that can overcome geopolitical and interdisciplinary divisions. These should be based on principles of ecology and of ecologically sustainable development.(92)

Ecologically sustainable development

Figure 151

Figure 151: The goal of ESD is particularly important to Australia's commercial and recreational fisheries.

The concept of 'sustainable development' was placed on the global agenda through the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development entitled 'Our Common Future' (often known as the Brundtland Report). This report defined sustainable development as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. (WCED 1987, p43(97))

The concept of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) has been embraced by many Australian environmental managers, conservationists, economists and industrialists as an important unifying goal for conservation and development. ESD is seen as a means of managing increasing human demands on the ultimately limited capacity of the natural environment.

The development of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development provided a framework through which all stakeholders, governments and community groups worked together to help achieve integrated economic social and environmental goals (61),(84),(98),(99).

National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development

The Goal

'Development that improves the total quality of life, both now an in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depend.'

The Core Objectives
The Guiding Principles
Figure 152

Figure 152: The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park ia a model for large-scale, integrated management.

'The objectives and principles need to be considered as a package with no objective or principle predominating over the others.'

The ESD working group on fisheries emphasised the importance of maintaining ecosystem function. Its recommendations included the development of a national marine conservation strategy incorporating a system of marine protected areas. The multi-use Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was cited as a model for large-scale, integrated marine management.(99)

The implementation of ESD poses particular challenges to the disciplines of economics and ecology. Its implications to marine environmental management include the necessity to maintain ecosystem function; the requirements of a large-scale or 'systems' approach; the necessity to maintain water quality; the importance of large marine protected areas; and the importance of monitoring because of scientific uncertainty.(61)

The objective of ESD has become incorporated into the goals of many management agencies. The Ocean Rescue 2000 program itself is a formal part of the ESD response(83). The recommended national network of marine protected areas is now being developed, and the Australian Marine Conservation Plan will be based on the principles of ESD. The concept of large ecosystem management is currently being adopted by fisheries managers in Australia(30).

A model for integrated, large ecosystem management: the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest complex of coral reefs in the world. It consists of around 2,900 separate reefs and is 2,500 kilometres in length. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) has an area of around 344,000 square kilometres. This is three quarters of the total area of marine protected areas in Australia. The GBRMP is also the world's largest marine protected area and the only large marine ecosystem which is comprehensively managed with the explicit goal of ensuring that its use is ecologically sustainable, in perpetuity.(69)

The GBRMP Authority, together with over 60 user and interest groups and government agencies and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has recently developed a 25 Year Strategic Plan for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The objectives of the strategic plan are a healthy environment, sustainable multiple use, maintenance and enhancement of values, integrated management, knowledge based but cautious decision making in the absence of information, and an informed, involved, committed community. The plan will be reviewed regularly by its creators and its objectives will be adopted by the participating organisations. The Strategic Plan was launched formally by the Prime Minister, the Hon. Paul Keating, on 20 July 1994. It is believed to be a world first in joint decision making, and is a good example of integrated management and ecologically sustainable development in action.(69)