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4613.0 - Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, 2007  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/01/2008   
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Contents >> Water trends >> Marine and coastal waters

Image: EstuaryMARINE AND COASTAL WATERS


Status of fish stocks


Australia’s coastal and marine regions support a large variety of species, many of which are only found in this country’s waters. Amongst the 97 stocks (species or groups of species) that are in Commonwealth-managed fisheries, the following trends are emerging:

  • The number of stocks that are overfished (referring to the number of fish left within a stock) or subject to overfishing (referring to the amount of fishing a stock is experiencing) reached a record high level of 24 stocks (24.7%) in 2005, but fell to 19 stocks (19.6%) in 2006.
  • The number of primary stocks or species classified not overfished had remained generally stable since 1997, but rose sharply to 27 stocks (27.8%) in 2006.
  • The number classified uncertain has increased from a mean (average) of 13 species in 1993-96 to a mean of 44 in 2004-2006.

The number of stocks classified has increased since 1992. The fisheries included in the graph exclude those where state or territory government agencies have primary management responsibility, for example, the Norfolk Island Fishery.

Status of fish stocks managed by the Australian Government
Graph: Status of fish stocks managed by the Australian Government
(a) For financial year 2000-01.
(b) For financial year 2002-03.
Source: Bureau of Rural Sciences, Fishery Status Report, 2006.

Illegal fishing is an added pressure on some fisheries and fish species. The number of fishing vessels apprehended for illegal fishing increased by 250% between 1999 and 2005. Patagonian Toothfish in the Southern Ocean and species of shark in northern waters are the worst affected.

Apprehensions for illegal fishing, number each year
Graph: Apprehensions for illegal fishing, number each year
Source: 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, Australia State of the Environment 2006, Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra.

Marine parks and protected areas

Efforts to preserve Australia’s marine environment include the establishment of a system of protected areas and guidelines to select and manage protected areas.

Protected Areas are not the only mechanism for conserving biodiversity but they are an important element of the overall approach.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) defines a protected area as: "An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means".

In 1994, Australia adopted the IUCN definition of a protected area and the internationally recognised IUCN six level system of categories used to describe the management intent as basis for documenting Australia's various types of protected areas. The six categories are:
  • Category IA - Strict Nature Reserve: Protected Area managed mainly for science.
  • Category IB - Wilderness Area: Protected Area managed mainly for wilderness protection.
  • Category II - National Park: Protected Area managed mainly for ecosystem conservation and recreation.
  • Category III - Natural Monument: Protected Area managed for conservation of specific natural features.
  • Category IV - Habitat/Species Management Area: Protected Area managed mainly for conservation through management intervention.
  • Category V - Protected Landscape/Seascape: Protected Area managed mainly for landscape/seascape conservation and recreation.
  • Category VI - Managed Resource Protected Areas: Protected Area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

The total number of marine parks and protected areas in Australia and its external territories has increased in number from 148 (and nearly 39 million hectares) in 1997 to 212 in 2004 to encompass nearly 72 million hectares.

MARINE PARKS AND PROTECTED AREAS, Australia and external territories
1997
2002
2004
no.
ha.
no.
ha.
no.
ha.

Category IA
16
2 779 192
18
15 207 232
26
14 689 494
Category IB
0
0
2
202
2
202
Category II
16
69 080
24
2 151 068
47
15 072 908
Category III
0
0
0
0
9
345
Category IV
80
586 334
106
12 045 534
99
17 347 773
Category V
7
4 716 993
0
0
0
0
Category VI
23
35 426 842
38
35 236 024
29
24 715 160
Category not specified
6
46 910
0
0
0
0
Total
148
38 908 358
188
64 640 060
212
71 825 882


Note: Includes marine, national oceanic islands & external territory protected area IUCN
Source: Department of the Environment and Heritage, Summary of Protected Areas <http://www.environment.gov.au/parks>, last viewed 7 August 2007



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