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The state government has released their draft Marine and Coastal Strategy. This is a really important moment.
It’s where the wind hits the sails to guide the tangible actions for how our seas and shores are cared for and used.
With over 80 per cent of Victoria’s marine life found here and nowhere else on earth, this strategy needs to be ambitious and strong.
The draft strategy has strengths and weaknesses. To expand on these issues, we’ve put together ‘The big 5 guide: 5 gaps, 5 improvements, 5 strengths’ below to help you use your voice to make a submission.
We invite everyone who has spent time in our seascapes to contribute, so we can continue to enjoy these beautiful environments into the future.
SUBMISSIONS CLOSE: FRIDAY 10 SEPTEMBER
What is the Marine and Coastal Strategy and why is it important?
A new Marine and Coastal Act for Victoria came into force in 2018, and outlines the principles and objectives for planning and managing our marine and coastal environment.
It required the creation of a Marine and Coastal Policy, which provides the vision for a “healthy, dynamic and biodiverse marine and coastal environment that is valued in its own right, and that benefits the Victorian community, now and in the future”.
This draft Marine and Coastal Strategy, now out for public comment, explains how and who will work to achieve that vision.
This strategy is the first of three five-year strategies and in many ways is supposed to be a plan of actions – but in its current draft form has some critical shortfalls.
View the draft strategy: engage.vic.gov.au/draft-marine-and-coastal-strategy
- Overall, the draft strategy is moving in the right direction. We’re pleased to see it include a central focus on Traditional Owner rights and obligations, and climate adaptation and response.
- But it falls very short in many critical aspects. The strategy is not visionary enough and does not set the broader agenda to address the range and depth of threats impacting our marine and coastal environment. It desperately needs more ambition, insight and strength.
- Many actions cater for a ‘business as usual’ approach and what already has funding or political commitment.
- It does not reflect urgency – many of the timeframes for actions are still years away.
- The strategy in its draft form is unlikely to meet the vision of the Policy for “A healthy, dynamic and biodiverse marine and coastal environment that is valued in its own right, and that benefits the Victorian community, now and in the future.”
The big 5 guide: 5 gaps, 5 improvements, 5 strengths
What are the gaps?
- There is a lack of focus on the broader marine environment – Our highly-visible coasts get a good look in in the draft strategy, but the marine environment further out are glanced over. More actions to address threats from marine invasive species, impacts of extractive industries and tourism, and efforts to enhance the health of our marine protected areas are needed.
- Marine Protected Area management lacks ambition – One of Victoria’s key marine assets, our Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is skimmed over in the draft strategy. We need good marine protected area management, and to fill the gaps in Victoria’s marine protected areas estate. MPAs should to be restored with resourcing and funding that has been dramatically cut over the years. This will help improve resilience of our marine areas to adapt to climate change, as well as connecting Victorians to these underwaters treasures through education and citizen science programs.
- Addressing impacts from Industry and recreation/tourism largely missing – Recreational and commercial fishing, oil and gas extraction or other offshore industries barely get a mention in the draft strategy. Some actions that could be included are the need for independent stock assessments for key fisheries species, the monitoring and reporting of the impact of recreational fishing , and the development of a strategic and integrated process for assessing marine energy proposals.
- Marine invasive species action absent – There is still no comprehensive statewide plan to address threats to the marine environment from invasive species in Victoria – there are estimated to be at least 100 in Port Phillip Bay alone. An action to develop a statewide plan should be added to the draft strategy.
- Actions on threatened species neglected – Attention to threatened marine and coastal species in the face of climate change and other threats is necessary, and must use all the policy and legislative tools available. For example, there are threatened species protection tools under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 2020, which include producing action statements for listed species and using critical habitat determinations to protect key areas.
What needs improving?
- The development of an Environmental Management Plan for Westernport Bay – The implementation and reviewing of the Port Phillip Bay Environmental Management Plan (action 2.7) is good. However Westernport Bay, Victoria’s second largest bay, has missed out on a similar Environmental Management Plan, with no commitment to develop one. This is an issue considering how highly Westernport Bay is contested for industry, along with impacts from catchment inputs. We recommend a supplementary action be added to include the “Develop and implement an Environmental Management Plan for Westernport Bay, as a mechanism to improve water quality, protect beneficial uses, and address threats specific to Westernport Bay.”
- Blue carbon mapping to be expanded to include high conservation value areas – A welcome action is to map coastal and marine areas with a high potential for blue carbon (action 2.5), however this action could be expanded to include the mapping of high conservation value areas in general.
- Coastal Crown Land – The draft strategy provides for good incentives for private land owners to aid in adaptation of habitats, however stronger focus could be added for public land. This could include allowing for the rezoning of areas likely to support coastal nature adaptation, and overlays such as Environmental Significance Overlays that prevent the development of land directly behind coastal conservation areas to enable the environment to adapt and retreat.
- Marine protected area focussed education programs – Action for community to respect and care for marine and coastal areas (action 2.8) is supported, however a focus on Victoria’s marine protected areas should be included with emphasis here.
- Population pressure – The draft strategy does have an action (action 3.6) around monitoring the carrying capacity and visitor experience in high-use areas of the Great Ocean Road, including visitor numbers and behaviour, and impacts of visitation on the values. Emphasis is needed to also reduce impacts.
What are the strengths?
- Strong focus on Traditional Owners right and obligations for the management of the marine and coastal environment.
- Climate change response and adaptation.
- Blue carbon initiatives including mapping of high potential areas for investment.
- Building and upskilling of marine and coastal land managers with tools and knowledge for effective planning and management.
- Good emphasis and focus on implementing one of Victoria’s newest marine planning and management tools, Marine Spatial Planning.
How to make a submission
There are two options to make your submission:
- Fill in the Engage Victoria survey: engage.vic.gov.au/draft-marine-and-coastal-strategy
- Make your own submission (however short or long) and upload it here: engage.vic.gov.au/draft-marine-and-coastal-strategy
SUBMISSIONS CLOSE: FRIDAY 10 SEPTEMBER