Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
9 May 2002
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today released seven reports that together provide the most comprehensive picture yet of Australia's south-east marine environment.
"The scale of this data collection is unprecedented - either here in Australia or the world. It is yet another example of how Australia and Australia's Oceans Policy is leading in the world in ecologically sustainable marine management," said Dr Kemp.
This information is a key outcome of the first marine management plan to be drawn up under the Howard Governments Australia's Oceans Policy which seeks to better understand and manage Australia's 11 million square kilometres of ocean territories.
Work is currently underway on the second marine management plan which will cover waters to the north of Australia in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Torres Strait.
The reports released today assess the biological, physical, economic and cultural characteristics of the South-east Marine Region - two million square kilometres off eastern South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania (including subantarctic Macquarie Island) and southern New South Wales.
Prepared by the National Oceans Office in Hobart, the seven reports represent a year's consultation with industry, community, Indigenous custodians, government and conservation organisations. They build a picture of the values placed on marine resources by over 3.5 million people in the Region.
"Australians have a strong affinity with the ocean. Our oceans contain resources of enormous potential benefit and so it is vital that we manage our vast marine resources well. This comprehensive assessment of our waters gives us new insights into how we can better manage the use, enjoyment and conservation of these waters and what lies in and beneath them," Dr Kemp said.
"They provide us with a solid base for understanding the economic, social and cultural values placed on the marine environment by communities, industries and governments. They also begin to clarify the concerns and issues that we must address to ensure that we better manage our oceans for future generations.
Among the report's findings are that:
- the massive Bass Canyon to the southeast of Victoria cuts sixty kilometres into the side of the continental shelf, with an entrance 15 kilometres wide;
- in South Australia, the rock lobster fishing industry generated a total economic benefit to the State of $143 million in 1999-2000;
- a number of extinct, giant underwater volcanoes exist off the southeast coast of Tasmania were previously unknown to scientists and contain rich new habitats and previously undescribed species including giant sea spiders, octopus, fish, crabs, corals and worms;
- over 100 introduced marine species have become established in the Region, causing irreversible change to habitats and marine communities;
- indigenous peoples' relationships to the oceans are as relevant today as they have been throughout their culture, and that the general community values environmental sustainability, biodiversity and the use of resources to secure future economic benefit; and
- the top five earning marine industries within the Region injected over $15 billion in revenue into Australia's economy.
The National Oceans Office is seeking public comment on the information collected.
For a copy of the reports, or more information on the South-east Regional Marine Plan, please contact the National Oceans Office on (03) 6221 5000, or visit the National Oceans Office web site: www.oceans.gov.au.
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400
Images of the seafloor, developed in support of the South-east Regional Marine Plan.
Speech by Dr Kemp at the Launch of the South-east Regional Marine Plan Assessment Reports
South-East Marine Region
- The massive Bass Canyon to the southeast of Victoria cuts sixty kilometres into the side of the continental shelf. Its entrance is 15 kilometres wide.
- The Port of Melbourne is one of the busiest shipping ports in Australia. It facilitates $60 billion in trade each year and contributes over $5 billion annually to Victoria's economy.
- The Gippsland Basin off southeast Victoria has been Australia's dominant oil producing area for the best part of 30 years.
- In 2001, 3,000 tonnes of catch from the South East Trawl Fishery off Lakes Entrance was landed with a total value of approximately $6.4 million.
- Victoria's Great Oceans Road is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Australia, rich in history, shipwrecks and lighthouses.
South-East Marine Region
South Australian Information
- Victor Harbor is a major tourist destination and important recreational fishing area. In particular, charter boat operations and marine heritage sites feature prominently in Victor Harbor.
- The Rock Lobster Fishing industry generated direct business income of $51.2 million in 1999-2000. Flow-ons to other sectors added $54.3 million locally and $37.9 million to the rest of the State.
- Over $1 billion in South Australia is invested in recreational fishing boats and tackle. For that small part of South Australia included within the Region, over 360,000 people engage in recreational fishing.
- The Otway Basin off the southern most point of South Australia is a significant area for oil exploration. Origin Energy and Woodside Petroleum have made two major discoveries with reserves estimated to be equal to those reserves in the Gippsland Basin - which has been Australia's most important oil producing area for the last thirty years.
South-East Marine Region
Australians have a strong affinity with the ocean. In a random phone survey of over 1,300 respondents, 53% of people living within 50 kilometres of the coast said they visited the coast at least once a fortnight, and 19% said they visited once or twice a month.
The survey revealed that:
- a majority of respondents value looking after the marine environment;
- they valued the sustainable use of resources to ensure economic certainty and growth;
- they agreed on the importance of implementing a single management strategy for all users in the Region; and
- education, appropriate management and community participation were some of the key measures seen as imperative to maintaining marine biodiversity.
A survey and workshop of marine-focused community groups identified their vision for the Region, including:
- better managing the marine environment through the use of management tools, including marine protected areas;
- protecting endangered species;
- reducing pollution;
- resource and environmental sustainability; and
- increasing education to promote a greater sense of community stewardship.
Key regional and national conservation organisations identified a number of measures that were considered most important for the Region, including:
- a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) system of large marine protected areas;
- biodiversity conservation as a non-negotiable cornerstone of planning and management;
- a pollution-free marine environment;
- an informed and engaged community that actively cares for the marine environment;
- regulated standards for environmental quality and industry activity; and
- comprehensive ecosystem monitoring and assessment.
Within the South-east Marine Region 1.4 million people live in districts within 50 kilometres of the coast. This figure rises to 3.5 million people if the larger Melbourne metropolitan area is included.
South-East Marine Region
Within the Region alone, the top five marine industries generated revenues of over $15 billion. Sustainable management of ocean resources is vital if Australia's marine industries are to continue to prosper.
- Commercial fishing - as of 1999, total fisheries production from the South-east Marine Region, in both Commonwealth and State waters was approximately 46,000 tonnes of fish (including molluscs and crustaceans) worth around $321 million;
- Petroleum - the industry spent an estimated $34 million on exploration and development activities in 1999-2000 in the Region;
- Recreational fishing - over three million people living in the states bordering the Region regularly engage in recreational fishing activities; and
- Aquaculture - aquaculture production in the Region was worth over $100 million in 1999-2000 and is growing at an annual rate of around 13%.
Other marine industries, many emerging, also significantly contribute to revenue generation including:
- Biotechnology - over 120 biological collection sites in the Region collect samples for this burgeoning industry;
- Wave, tidal and wind power - all of which are being considered for development within the Region;
- Marine research and education - the Region is home to CSIRO Marine Research, Australia's largest marine research organisation, along with a wide range of education facilities;
- Shipping - cargo shipping alone accounted for over 9,000 ship movements in the Region in 2000-2001; and
- Ports - in 1998-99 the Port of Melbourne alone handled international cargo to the value of over $3.6 billion.
South-East Marine Region
Indigenous Uses and Values
An Indigenous Working Group assisted in collecting and understanding how Indigenous people use and value marine areas in the Region.
The key messages are that Indigenous people do not distinguish between land and sea - that land and sea exist irrespective of boundaries - and that this uniquely Indigenous view of the sea is a reality for Indigenous people today.
Clear messages highlighted during consultations include:
- that there is still a lack of understanding of Indigenous trading and commercial marine resource interests;
- that there is a continuing regular use of marine resources by Indigneous people around the Region and that the sea continues to be important to Indigenous domestic economies;
- that it is important to protect their cultural heritage and their assertion of continuing inherited rights and responsibilities to both land and sea country; and
- that recognising Indigenous rights and interests in marine environmental and resource management legislation varies considerably across the States.
Issues raised during consultations with Indigenous people include:
- recognition and respect for culture;
- co-management and resource sharing;
- culturally appropriate education and training; and
- employment opportunities that are economically, environmentally and culturally sustainable.
The Geological Features
Below the oceans surface a dramatic landscape of massive volcanoes and deep canyons forms the physical backdrop for all the life and activity in the South-east Marine Region. Specific geological features include:
- The great abyssal plains at depths of more than four kilometres below the ocean surface;
- The Cascade Seamount (an extinct volcanic cone) - on the East Tasman Plateau south east of Tasmania reaches 1,800 metres above the surface of the plateau. The East Tasman Plateau is itself believed to be an ancient fragment of rock from the Australian continent;
- The South Tasman Rise - a broad dome of continental rock just to the south west of Tasmania that was produced as Antarctica and Australia rifted into two continents. The Rise rests 4,000 metres beneath the surface, rising to 800 metres at its peak;
- The Tasman Seamounts Reserve - a Commonwealth Marine Protected Area of more than 70 volcanic seamounts on the southern slopes of Tasmania's continental margin;
- The Tasman Fracture Zone - a 450 kilometre long escarpment that is two or three kilometres high in places and marks the boundary between the deep abyssal floor and the shallower continental rock. It extends from the western margin of Tasmania, south past the Rise and towards the Antarctic;
- The Bass Strait - a shallow plateau with an average depth of only 60 metres;
- The Bass Canyon - a 60 kilometre cut into the continental shelf on the eastern side of Bass Strait. The mouth of the canyon is 15 kilometres across, with sheer walls 1,000 metres high. The main floor of the canyon is 4,000 metres deep, and is connected to the top of the continental shelf by networks of smaller canyons and valleys;
- Macquarie Island - around 1,500 kilometres south-east of Tasmania, it is the only known occurrence of oceanic seafloor found above the sea surface. The Island is internationally recognised as a World Heritage Area for its unique ecological and geological features; and
- The Hjort Trench to the east of Macquarie Island is the deepest part of the Region at 6,000 metres.
As impressive as these features are, a great deal of ocean seascape in the Region remains unexplored.
Every research voyage brings new discoveries and an improved knowledge that highlights exactly how much we have still to learn about our oceans.
The Biological Features
The diversity of marine life in the South-east Marine Region is remarkable by global standards. Specific biological features include:
- Southern Australia is also notable for the large numbers of endemic organisms - species that are found nowhere else in the world;
- Southern Australia has the most diverse marine benthic flora in the world of which 62% of macroalgae (seaweeds) are thought to be endemic;
- The fish fauna of southern temperate Australia consists of about 600 species, of which 85% are believed to be endemic and 11% are shared only with neighbouring New Zealand;
- More than 120 species are listed as having conservation significance under either Commonwealth or State legislation, for example all whales and seals in the Region are protected, the live-bearing seastar (Patiriella vivipara) and the great white shark;
- A recent research expedition in the Region revealed previously undescribed species including giant sea spiders, octopus, fish, crabs, corals and worms; and
- One hundred and fifteen marine species are recorded as being introduced. Introduced marine species are those that occur outside their natural or historical ranges. In some cases, these species have a competitive advantage over native species because their natural predators and parasites are absent. The most common are the New Zealand screw shell and the Northern Pacific seastar.