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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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

Table of Contents


The production of the first State of the Marine Environment Report (SOMER) is a milestone in the management of Australia's marine environment.

SOMER provides the first comprehensive scientific description of our marine environment and the baseline information included in the report will enable better management of this precious asset.

It is an information base that will allow us all to be better informed about the condition of the marine environment.

The information base in the report will feed into the development of the Australian Marine Conservation Plan which will contain strategies and priorities for managing our marine environment. It will form a part of the overall national State of the Environment Report.

A quarter of Australia's population lives within three kilometres of the sea, and two thirds reside in our coastal towns and cities.

Our marine environment is a national asset, in terms of the biodiversity it maintains, the important industries it supports and for its recreational values.

We have a responsibility to protect our marine environment for the benefit and enjoyment of all Australians.

Senator John Faulkner, Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories

February 1995

About this Report

The State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia (SOMER) is the first comprehensive description of Australia's marine environment, its uses and values, the issues and threats affecting it, and its management.

SOMER covers the marine environment of Australia and its external territories, from the estuaries and sea shores to the edge of the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. It primarily concentrates on the coastal and continental shelf areas around the continent but it also covers issues within coastal catchments which affect the marine environment. Marine protected areas, a major reason for the establishment of the Ocean Rescue 2000 program, are discussed in some detail.

SOMER is an independent, scientific report and its production involved hundreds of marine experts. SOMER was a major challenge as Australia's marine environment is very large and covers a great range of climates, ecosystems, habitats and human influences. More significantly, Australia's marine environment is also very incompletely described. Long-term scientific information on the marine environment, which is essential to accurately assess its environmental condition, is very scattered, or lacking altogether in many areas.

A senior marine scientist, assisted by an expert Advisory Committee, was appointed to prepare SOMER. The topics to be covered in SOMER were initially identified by a workshop of experts from marine science, resource management and industry.

Some of Australia's leading marine experts were then commissioned to prepare reviews on these topics. These technical reviews were, in turn, subject to a process of 'scientific peer review' in which at least two other scientists expert in that area checked the review for its scientific accuracy. The 83 technical papers provided the source material for this report. Two volumes of 30 papers are published as 'The State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia: Technical Annexes 1 and 2'.

Because the technical papers were long (several thousand pages) and technical, they were simplified and summarised to produce the SOMER Technical Summary. This report is written in a semi-technical style for marine environmental managers, environmental scientists, conservationists, teachers and other specialists interested in the marine environment.

This booklet is an overview of the major findings of SOMER, written in a non-technical style for the general reader. It attempts to simplify often highly technical subjects, and makes assessments from often limited or sketchy information. Information sources, which mainly come from the SOMER Technical Summary, are referenced (as super script numbers) throughout the text.

SOMER process

SOMER process