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Joint Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
Commonwealth Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Alexander Downer
5 March 2003
A leading oceans expert from Environment Australia, Philip Burgess, has been appointed as co-chair to the United Nations' international oceans forum where countries meet annually to discuss important ocean-related issues.
"Mr Burgess' UN appointment as the new co-chair to its Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea is an endorsement of Australia's position as a leader in oceans conservation issues on the international stage," Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said.
"As an employee in the Commonwealth's Department of Environment and Heritage, Mr Burgess has been instrumental in helping the Federal Government shape the international agenda to put the world's oceans on a sustainable basis.
"He has 10 years experience specialising in oceans issues and provided an invaluable contribution to the Howard Government's National Oceans Policy. This is the world's first national coordinated policy for sustainable management and protection of Australia's marine environment.
"Mr Burgess was also the lead negotiator for the oceans component of the World Summit on Sustainable Development last year where he worked to secure oceans issues on the international agenda, and has earned a high level of respect and recognition for his work with Asian and Pacific countries and organisations, such as APEC and United Nations, to reduce marine pollution."
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, said Mr Burgess will help to facilitate discussion on better management of the world's oceans.
"The Oceans Consultative Process was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999 to give countries an annual forum to discuss issues of concern related to the ocean," Mr Downer said.
"This forum has discussed a range of oceans issues including piracy, illegal fishing, marine science and marine pollution. Discussions this year are likely to focus on sensitive marine ecosystems and navigation.
"Much of the world's oceans are beyond national boundaries and are therefore the responsibility of the entire international community. This forum guides the member countries in their decisions regarding ocean management."
The Office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly invited Australia to nominate a candidate for the co-chair position representing a developed country. Mr Burgess shares the chair for the Committee with the Uruguyan Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Felipe H Paolillo.
Catherine Job (Dr Kemp's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400
Chris Kenny (Mr Downer's office) 02 6277 7500 or 0419 206 890
Australia's National Oceans Policy, unveiled in 1998, represents a world first in the sustainable management and protection of the marine environment. Australia is now leading the international campaign for the conservation of biodiversity on the high seas.
The US, Canada, New Zealand and the Pacific Island nations have since sought Australia's advice on how to go about preparing and implementing strategic plans to protect and manage marine resources.
Australia is responsible for a marine area of 11 million square kilometres - almost twice the size of its mainland.
These oceans are home to some of the world's most diverse ecosystems with more than 80 per cent of marine species unique to the region. These remarkable ecosystems are also rich in resources, with marine industries generating more than $30 million annually.
Since 1996 Australia has developed an unrivalled reputation as a world leader in oceans management, balancing their economic opportunities with the enormous responsibility to manage our marine resources sustainably and to protect our coasts and oceans.
Our marine areas are still in relatively good condition, but are under increasing pressure both from a range of marine industries and from the cumulative impacts of activities in our coastal catchments.
Launched in 1998, the International Year of the Ocean, the Commonwealth Government's National Oceans Policy became the world's first national coordinated policy for the sustainable management and protection of our entire ocean territory.
The policy was backed with a Commonwealth commitment of $50 million and the establishment of the National Oceans Office in Hobart to drive its implementation.
The first Regional Marine Plan for the South-east Marine Region, to be released in 2003, will cover over two million square kilometres of ocean containing a diverse range of habitats and resources users. Regional marine planning at this scale is a world first. Regional Marine Plans will be prepared in due course for the rest of Australia's ocean territory.
Work has already started on a second, Northern Plan. Together the plans will integrate economic, environmental, social and cultural objectives to help Australia plan for the future as well as capitalise on existing opportunities.
This work contributes to Australia's already impressive record of marine protection which since 1996, has seen:
The Commonwealth has also recognised the importance for national leadership with regard to our coastal areas as well as Australia's deep ocean territories.
The Howard Government has committed to working with the States to develop a new National Coastal Policy which will ensure that the livability of coastal areas is enhanced, environmental values are protected and resources are developed to ensure that opportunities continue to grow for future generations.
The central element of the new plan will be regional coastal catchment initiatives, which will complement the regional catchment management approach in the NAP.