Integrated marine management involves establishing objectives for managing all activities pertaining to assets and values of the environment. In this sense, the values and assets of the marine environment, and the processes that support them, become the endpoints for management. Maintaining these values and assets involves responsibilities across many spheres of government, the private sector and local communities. Each of these has to know what is expected of their activities in relation to the quality of the values and assets, so that each knows what types of activities will be acceptable and compatible with the marine values and assets. An integrated approach to management involves establishing and maintaining a set of standards that reflect the desired condition of the values and assets; controlling activities to ensure that the standards are met; and establishing appropriate information, consultation and transparency systems to ensure that the public knows that the standards are appropriate and maintained. This is particularly important for the marine environment, because many aspects of marine management, and marine values and assets, involve the expenditure of large amounts of public funds, for which accountability is required.
Many attempts have been made to develop and implement various forms of integrated marine management in Australian waters, but none have persisted. In 1998, the Australian Government released Australia’s Oceans Policy, a far-reaching initiative that was intended to provide, for the first time, a nationally integrated approach to the management of Australia’s maritime jurisdiction outside the three-mile zone. Unfortunately, the Oceans Policy has failed to achieve its primary objective—it has not embedded integrated approaches, but has merely become an additional tool for marine environmental protection.2-4
There are a number of small-scale integrated marine management initiatives (such as at Rottnest Island near Perth). The most successful example is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP), which operates under its own Act of Parliament, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. The Act provides a framework for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to address pressures on the values of the GBRMP from activities within the GBRMP. Pressures on the values of the GBRMP that occur from activities outside the GBRMP are addressed through the EPBC Act. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has recently completed a pioneering analysis of management systems and effectiveness in the GBRMP, culminating in an outlook report that identifies the full range of issues, anticipates the future and highlights the key pressures that will influence the future condition of the GBRMP.31 The report identifies issues that span many sectors of activity, including activities that do not occur within the GBRMP but have an important bearing on the future condition of the park and its conservation status. It reflects an integrated approach to management, focused on achieving specific objectives for the natural ecosystems of the GBRMP (including resource exploitation).