The Guardian August 30, 2000

South Australian marine environment struggles for protection


South Australia has moved a step closer to establishing a representative 
system of marine reserves by initiating the establishment of a Marine 
Protected Area Task Force. Environmental and community actions have forced 
the government to recognise the issues.

The variety of different habitats in South Australia's unique marine 
environment are poorly represented in the current marine reserve system and 
environmental damage is increasing. The moves to identify areas worthy of 
marine park protection, come at a time when threats of petroleum mining are 
being made in areas where whales breed on the Great Australian Bight.

South Australia was one of the first states in Australia to make laws to 
create marine protected areas (MPAs).

With the exception of the multiple-use Great Australian Bight Marine Park 
(which may now be targeted for petroleum exploration), MPAs are very small 
aquatic reserves scattered around the state.

Since the 1970s there have been relatively few areas set aside. 

Between 1993 and 1996 the percentage of coastal waters in some form of MPA 
increased from 0.5 per cent to 3.2 per cent. This compares to 21.4 per cent 
of SA's terrestrial national park areas.

Task Force

The terms of reference and membership for the new Task Force were outlined 
at a recent meeting of industry and conservation and agency stakeholders 
organised by the state's Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

The Task Force will comprise representatives from community, conservation, 
fishing and mining industries, and indigenous groups, State Government 
fisheries, aquaculture and tourism agencies and local government 

It aims to develop a partnership between key stakeholders with an interest 
in MPAs.

A Scientific Advisory Committee will also be established.

The initiative is a result of the implementation of the state's Marine and 
Estuarine Strategy released in 1998.

The Strategy commits the state to developing a system of MPAs by 2003, 
which acknowledges ecologically sustainable multiple use except where 
special conservation needs are identified, and includes the use of 
exclusion zones for effective habitat or species management.

Identifying areas

The Coast and Marine Section of the EPA is currently reviewing and 
consolidating work funded by the Commonwealth over the last decade.

They aim to identify candidate areas within South Australian waters that 
might be assessed as potentially part of a system of MPAs. The project is 
currently at the identification stage.

There is an urgent need for the development of management plans and 
strategies for existing reserves, as well as upgrading and extensions to 
current aquatic reserves.

Marine biodiversity

Any proposed areas will form part of the National Representative System of 
MPAs and as such will have a primary goal of marine biodiversity 

It is expected a candidate list will be developed by the end of December 
incorporating input from stakeholder and community workshops to be held in 
regional areas later this year.

Once the list is finalised the process of implementation can be undertaken. 
However this may still be a lengthy (and political!) process.

The Marine and Coastal Community Network has been invited to participate in 
the Task Force.

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