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Policy and management response

Looking back

Policy and management actions to protect the coast reported since 1988 include:

Coast protection

Marine conservation

Fisheries and aquaculture

  • Introduction of science-based fisheries, including review of fisheries legislation and management plans to reflect sustainability principles.
  • Fisheries Management Act 2007, providing establishment of aquatic reserves and seasonal or temporary closures.
  • Measures to reduce fishing participation and effort, mainly through reduction in the number of marine scalefish fishery licences from 865 in 1984 to 316 in 2016, the fishing net buyback scheme and voluntary reduction of catch by Blacklip Abalone fishers.
  • Research on bycatch reduction devices and monitoring of trends.
  • The Aquaculture Act 2001 requiring aquaculture developments to undergo ecological risk assessments before approval.



Recent and current actions and priorities

Global action

In 2015, many countries, including Australia, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda included 17 sustainable development goals with a number of targets relating to coast and marine environments. These aim to reduce pollution, achieve more sustainable fishing, increase areas under formal conservation, improve scientific knowledge and coordinate policy. 

It was noted in The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017 that the formal protection of key biodiversity areas increased from 32% in 2000 to 45% in 2017, with the highest coverage in Australia and New Zealand at 69%.

National action

In addition to leading the nation’s participation under international agreements, the Australian Government’s coast and marine role relates mainly to the marine environment beyond state jurisdictional coastal waters. This includes:

Case study

Cooperative research centres (CRCs)

The Australian Seafood CRC has developed microbial floc technology for prawn farms reducing water use from adjacent rivers by 60% and nutrient outflow by 90%. In addition to reducing waste, and water and energy use, this CRC has assisted with protecting endangered species, enhanced sustainability of wild commercial fisheries through better fishery management models (for example rock lobsters and abalone) and restored coastal ecosystems through recovery of sea cucumbers. By researching the effects of reduced lobster pot size, the CRC found it could reduce the risk of entanglement with Australian Sea Lions, Leatherback Turtles, Loggerhead Turtles and whales by 40%.

Cooperative research centres also protect areas of ocean. For example, the ecosystem models and analyses of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC are expected to protect 2 billion ha of ecosystems in the Southern Ocean by informing policy for the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

State action

Key actions to protect the SA coast since the 2013 SOER are:

The Adelaide Coastal Water Quality Improvement Plan (ACWQIP) is a long-term strategy to achieve and sustain water quality improvement for Adelaide’s coastal waters and create conditions to see the return of seagrass along the Adelaide coastline. Maintaining good water quality is essential for the maintenance of marine habitats and important for commercial and recreational uses of Adelaide's coastal waters and metropolitan beaches.

Central to the ACWQIP is the value of the coast, coastal waters and seagrass meadows for the ecosystem services they provide and the acknowledgement that activities occurring on the land impact on coastal water quality and the coastal environment. This has been the foundation of the recently completed 5-year Catchment to Coast project and the ongoing management of Adelaide’s coastal waters.

The South Australian system of marine parks are implemented in line with 19 management plans. The marine parks network is made up of zones, including general use zones (13.6% of state waters), habitat protection zones (24.7% of state waters), sanctuary zones (4.9% of state waters), and restricted access zones (1% of state waters). Restrictions on activities in 83 sanctuary zones have been in place since 2014. 

The Towards a Resilient State: The South Australian Government’s Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan includes 3 actions specific to the coast:

  • Action 63 – undertake a periodic review of SA’s coastal management measures, including Adelaide’s beach management to provide protection of development and infrastructure and beach amenity from long-term sand loss, and storm flooding and erosion. This includes review of the implementation of the Adelaide's Living Beaches strategy, which currently costs close to $6 million a year. This is a strategy to operate and maintain sand-transfer infrastructure for sand carting to replenish eroding beaches at West Beach and Henley South, and dredging of sand and seagrass wrack at West Beach and Glenelg.
  • Action 64 – prepare a 20-year strategic coastal management plan based on climate modelling and sea-level rise monitoring and projections to ensure sustainable management of the SA coast.
  • Action 65 – prepare guidance on coastal development and landward migration to inform future policy and relevant instruments under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016, particularly in relation to planning policies and overlays included in the Planning and Design Code for types of development and tide-dependent ecosystems impacted by coastal processes and sea-level rise.

Fresh oysters

The oyster code of practice will be updated to ensure sustainability

Other actions include:

Case study

Windara Reef shellfish restoration

Overharvesting by early European settlers depleted most shellfish reefs along SA’s coast by 1948. A $4.2-million partnership between the SA Government, the Nature Conservancy, Yorke Peninsula Council and the University of Adelaide is building a 20-ha native shellfish reef that will provide habitat for many species of fish including King George Whiting and snapper. It will be a recreational fishing hotspot and is expected to boost the local economy through increased visitors. The Australian Government is supporting the project by investing $990,000 in the initiative through the National Stronger Regions Fund.

Ecosystem-based fisheries management

The South Australian Research and Development Institute undertook a study to understand changes in the abundance of snapper in Gulf St Vincent on other high-value commercial fisheries such as prawns and blue crabs. This included an assessment of the effects of fishing and improved fishing selectivity on the Gulf St Vincent ecosystem over a period of 20 years. This resulted in the development of the first whole-of-ecosystem model for Gulf St Vincent to assess and optimise future ecological and economic performance of multi-species fisheries in an ecosystem-based fisheries management framework.

The model describes the key components of the ecosystem and provides an integrated assessment of the stock status, performance and impact of its key fisheries over a 20-year period. Although developed to determine if the increase in snapper in the late 2000s has contributed to observed reductions in the Blue Swimmer Crab and Western King Prawn (found to be unlikely), the model provides a framework to assess the implications of a range of fishery management scenarios and, in particular the potential impacts of measures aimed at one fishery on other fisheries and on the broader Gulf St Vincent ecosystem.

Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary

Sharp-tailed sandpiper

Summer migrant Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

Just a 30-minute drive from Adelaide, the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary is a unique haven for a large diversity of resident and migratory shorebirds, waterbirds and bush birds.

Between September and March, up to 27,000 migratory shorebirds of more than 50 different species gather across the 60 km of coastline.  

It is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of these birds in a mix of habitats. Local communities take pride in conserving the walking trails and natural amenity of the birdwatching sites.