4613.0 - Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, Jan 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/01/2010   
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Contents >> Water >> Marine and coastal waters

This document was added or updated on 05/02/2010.



Graph: Australian fish stocks overfished and/or subject to overfishing
Source: Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) and Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS), 2009, Fishery Status Reports 2008; BRS, 2008; 2007, Fishery Status Reports 2007; 2006.

Australia’s coastal and marine regions support a large variety of species, many of which are only found in this country’s waters.

The Bureau of Rural Sciences has produced fishery status reports for those fish stocks managed wholly or in part by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) since 1992. Between 1992 and 2003, reports were not compiled each year, and reports were compiled for the 2000–01 and 2002–03 financial years, rather than calendar years within this period.

The fishery status report for 1996 reported that 6% (three of 48 surveyed stocks) of fish stocks were overfished (referring to the number of fish left within a stock) and/or subject to overfishing (referring to the amount of fishing a stock is experiencing) during that year. Between 1996 and 2005, the status reports showed a trend of increasing overfishing, with the proportion of fish stocks overfished and/or experiencing overfishing peaking at 29% (24 of 83 stocks) in 2005.

Since 2005, the number of stocks overfished and/or experiencing overfishing has decreased, to 18 of a total of 98 surveyed stocks (18%) in 2008.


Graph: Commonwealth marine parks and protected areas
Note: Categories IB, III and V are not shown because there were no Commonwealth marine protected areas in these categories in 2002, 2004 or 2007.
Source: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database 2002 and 2004; DEWHA, Commonwealth marine protected areas estate, <http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mpa/commonwealth/manage/index.html>, viewed Oct 2009.

Efforts to preserve Australia’s marine environment include the establishment of a system of protected areas and guidelines to select and manage protected areas.
Australia uses the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) seven-category system to classify its protected areas. The seven categories are (Endnote 1):
  • 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 protection 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 graph above only relates to marine reserves managed by Australia’s federal (Commonwealth) government. Australia manages other marine protected areas through its state governments.

The total number of Commonwealth marine reserves in Australia and its external territories increased from 17 in 2002 to 28 in 2007. This equated to an area increase of 37% or 22.6 million hectares (ha), to a total of 84.3 million hectares in 2007.

Each marine reserve may be split up into two or more “management zones”, so that a single reserve can be classified under more than one IUCN category.

Australia’s largest marine reserve managed by the Commonwealth government is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which has four management zones and encompasses a total area of over 34 million hectares.


1. IUCN, 2000, Application of IUCN Protected Area Management Categories: Draft Australian Handbook.

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