Existing protection and management
Planning for biodiversity management has been significantly improved since the 2009 assessment through preparation of the Great Barrier Reef Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 201313, although targets in the plan tend to be focused on process and output rather than outcomes. The processes of developing outlook reports and undertaking the strategic assessment for the Great Barrier Reef Region12 have focused attention on the Region’s biodiversity values and threats to those values. The declines in coral cover are cause for considerable concern. To date, there is no explicit overarching strategy and action plan to address this decline. The extensive degradation in central and southern inshore areas highlights the importance of considering cumulative and consequential impacts. These are less well understood by managers, but work 22,23 has begun to address this deficiency. The information base for biodiversity management continues to improve through both scientific research and the compilation of information by managing agencies (for example the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s vulnerability assessments and strategic assessment). Gaps in knowledge are well recognised. Considerable financial resources are allocated to improving understanding of biodiversity and the factors affecting it, including through institutions such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science, universities and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Relevant Traditional Owner knowledge is often not available or accessible to managers. Resources within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority have been re-focused into relevant areas enabling development of products such as the biodiversity conservation strategy and vulnerability assessments. However, resources for implementation of actions from this work are yet to be identified. The capacity of the Field Management Program to address biodiversity management issues in marine and island environments is assessed as very limited and decreasing. Key stakeholders in biodiversity protection have been identified and are generally well known to managers especially through the advisory committees of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and other consultative mechanisms.
There is an improved focus on biodiversity outcomes, including an overarching strategy.
Protection of biodiversity is a primary management objective
© Chris Jones
7.3.13 Heritage values
In this assessment, the topic of ‘heritage’ encompasses Indigenous heritage values, historic heritage values, social and scientific heritage values (including aesthetic heritage values), world heritage and national heritage values, and Commonwealth heritage values as set out in Chapter 4. The effectiveness of measures to protect and manage natural heritage values is considered in the assessment of management to protect biodiversity values (Section 7.3.12). The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has statutory responsibilities in relation to the protection of all heritage values in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, including consideration of potential impacts during the permit assessment process. The Australian Government Department of the Environment is the lead agency in relation to world, national and Commonwealth heritage matters overall. Historic shipwrecks are protected through specific legislation and entry controls. Development of the draft Great Barrier Reef Region Strategic Assessment Report12 considerably strengthened understanding of the scope of heritage values associated with the Region.