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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
28 April 2005
The final voyage of a marine science survey of ocean waters off northern Australia will set sail tomorrow (Friday) to collect important environmental data in the region as part of the Australian Government's marine management strategy, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell said today.
The Northern Australian Marine Science Survey 2005 – a joint exercise involving the Department of Environment and Heritage, Geoscience Australia (GA) and the CSIRO – will collect seismic and oceanic data, map the sea floor and take samples from a number of marine ecosystems.
The third and final voyage - set to depart Darwin tomorrow - is planned to explore the ocean floor over the next month for natural hydrocarbon seeps and their effect on the environment.
The second voyage, which has just been completed, resulted in the discovery of an extensive coral reef system in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.
Senator Campbell said scientific findings from the voyages would provide critical information for the Northern Regional Marine Plan, which would bring together all the major marine management issues for 700,000 square kilometres of ocean water under federal jurisdiction between the eastern Arafura Sea and Torres Strait, including the Gulf of Carpentaria.
"Sound and sustainable management of the ocean environment relies on the best possible information and scientists know comparatively little about these tropical northern waters," he said.
"We are filling these information gaps through scientific voyages such as these, using cutting edge technology so we can make informed management decisions."
Senator Campbell said the voyages were an exciting opportunity to use new sea floor imaging equipment fitted to the hull of the Australian Government research ship the RV Southern Surveyor.
He said the Government had invested more than $1 million in the equipment and another $1.2 million in ship costs for the voyages through the Department of Environment and Heritage alone.
"With this equipment we will see for the first time detailed images of the sea floor in three-dimensional colour, revealing the topography of the sea floor, which enables us to see what ecosystems and marine creatures are supported," Senator Campbell said.
Media note: The RV Southern Surveyor will be berthed at Darwin Harbour until 29 April, when it will depart on the third leg of the Northern Australian Marine Science Survey 2005.
Senator Campbell's office: Renae Stoikos (02) 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434
National Oceans Office: Richard Wilson (03) 6221 5020 or 0419 699 682