Many improvements to management frameworks across Australian and state and territory governments introduced since 2011, including the implementation of new national regulators, have had beneficial outcomes for the marine environment.
Progress has been made in implementing systems for reporting and assessing a number of activities by sectors across jurisdictions. In the fisheries sector, national assessment and reporting of key Australian fish stocks is occurring through a collaboration between all government fisheries agencies. Additionally, a national strategy for research, development and extension for fisheries and aquaculture (FRDC 2010) is in place under the broader National Primary Industries Research, Development and Extension Framework, which is a collaboration between Australian Government, state and territory agencies, and key research providers. The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Indigenous Reference Group has developed research, development and extension principles aimed at developing self-management structures for cultural fisheries, and supporting sustainable development of traditional harvesting (Calogeras et al. 2015).
The marine sector applies the biosecurity principles and framework of the 2012 Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity through a suite of measures, including management of international and domestic ballast water and biofouling.
The revised National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies (AMSA 2015) provides a single national, comprehensive and integrated response arrangement for management of maritime emergencies. In addition, amendments to Annexes V and VI of MARPOL (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) have tightened controls on discharge of garbage at sea, and introduced technical and operational controls on greenhouse gas emissions from international marine vessels—in particular, sulfur oxides and nitrous oxides.
Similarly, the formation of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority in 2012 provides for national regulation of safety, well integrity and environmental management of oil and gas operations in Australian waters, and in coastal waters where powers have been conferred by the state or territory.
However, efforts continue to be poorly coordinated across jurisdictions within sectors, although improvements have occurred in some sectors such as fisheries and management of commercial vessels. In particular, recreational fishing and marine mining lack nationally coordinated management. External pressures that are not directly managed, lack clear governance frameworks across jurisdictions or are the result of many interacting human uses—including climate change, marine debris and, potentially, the chronic impacts of noise—are not managed effectively.
Outcomes of environmental protection for marine species and communities under the EPBC Act are mixed. Since SoE 2011, no species has been removed from the list, further species have been added to the list and some species have been reclassified because of increasing threats, including those resulting from ineffective management and mitigation of pressures. A clear gap exists between identification of pressures and issues associated with threats in recovery plans, and implementation of activities that might mitigate pressures and assist the recovery of species or communities that are the focus of plans.
Research plans have been released in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Science strategy and information needs 2014–19 (GBRMPA 2014b) and the National Marine Science Plan 2015–2025 (NMSC 2015).