About the report
Australia’s Oceans Policy was launched in 1998 – the International Year of the Ocean. The Australian Government is committed to ecologically sustainable oceans management and Australia’s Oceans Policy marks a significant step forward in the way Australia manages its marine domain – about 16 million km2 of ocean.
Ecologically sustainable oceans management has four key components:
- ecosystem-based management of human activities
- integrated multiple-use management in marine environments
- maintenance of ecosystem health
- sustainable and internationally-competitive, marine-based industries
To achieve the goal of ecologically sustainable oceans management we need to look at all ocean uses and resources collectively rather than in isolation, and our management decisions need to be informed by a sound understanding of natural systems and of the human interactions with them.
The Australian Government’s commitment to ecologically sustainable oceans management is being implemented through regional marine planning. Planning is now underway in the Northern Planning Area – an area comprising the Gulf of Carpentaria, eastern Arafura Sea and Torres Strait.
A major incentive for the approach that the Australian Government is now taking is to avoid the mistakes we’ve made on land since European occupation of this continent. The ecosystems of the Northern Planning Area remain largely intact.We have a major opportunity to ensure that, as economic and social development occurs, it does so in a way that both maintains ecosystem health and meets the needs of the people of the region.
Ecosystems do not recognise the jurisdictional boundaries that we have imposed on land and seascapes. The flooding rivers of the north, for example, have impacts well beyond estuarine and coastal environments. Marine turtles also move through large areas of state, national and international waters as they feed and come to land to nest.
It is essential, therefore, that governments improve their capacity to work collaboratively towards shared goals if we are to achieve sustainability through ecosystem-based management of our activities. The Australian, Queensland and the Northern Territory governments have agreed to work together to scope the northern marine plan. The scoping phase involves articulating the objectives to be achieved and identifying the key issues to be addressed through the marine planning process. The views of industry, Indigenous communities, the research community, conservation organisations and other interests are all important in identifying the issues and objectives to be progressed through regional marine planning. Although Torres Strait is formally part of the Planning Area, it is important to note that marine planning in the Strait is being undertaken via a separate process to that in the rest of the Planning Area. This is in recognition of the distinct ecological, cultural and institutional arrangements that characterise Torres Strait.
While many who live there require no introduction to the Planning Area, many Australians have a strong interest in the area fostered by its remoteness, its Indigenous cultures and the grandeur of its scale. This Snapshot is designed to introduce readers to the Northern Planning Area.