Understanding changes to marine protected area management in Australia

Supervisory Team:

Genevieve Phillips

Myriam Lacharité

Brief project description:

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are zones within the ocean that have regulations placed within them to limit extractive activities, that include, but are not limited to, fishing activities. Preserving natural habitats and reducing destructive oceanic activities is important to protect the world’s biodiversity. No-take MPAs aim to limit loss of oceanic biodiversity, serve as valuable scientific reference areas, and can provide sources of productivity to wild fisheries. These outputs can also increase regional social and economic benefits. Globally, there is a push to protect 30% of the world's oceans by 2030 [IUCN 30 by 30 Goals]. Australia is often cited as leading the way in this area, with "over 40%" of Australia's ocean being protected. However, a large majority of highly protected MPAs in Australia are in offshore waters; areas with lower potential for conflict, and in turn have lower economic and biodiversity values, and are unlikely to provide protection for the majority of Australia's marine biodiversity, or valuable minerals (Bond & Jamieson, 2022).

No-take MPAs can be costly to maintain, and negatively impact marine resource extractive activities, including commercial and recreational fishing. They are also mostly static, with little flexibility in, for example, moving boundaries of MPAs to align with shifting species distribution due to climate change. Consequently, there is growing interest in the benefits associated with partial protection from extractive activities, while allowing tourism-based activities like diving, snorkelling, and low-impact fishing.

This project will examine how MPA management and policy have changed over time within Australia. The project could potentially cover the following questions:

  1. How has Australia's marine resource management and policy regarding MPAs (both fully protected, and partially-protected) changed over time?
  2. Use a regional case study to demonstrate temporal evolution of marine management in Australia, e.g., in Tasmania (or another State), are fisheries management goals and strategies aligned with the conservation goals of nearby fully-protected or partially-protected MPAs?

Data will be extracted from the primary and grey literature, as required.

Skills students will develop during this research project:

The student will acquire knowledge in marine conservation approaches, and analytical and critical thinking skills in understanding complex environmental issues through an in-depth literature review. If possible, the student will also be encouraged to develop statistical skills by conducting a meta-analysis, a common approach to synthesise data from the primary literature.

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
December 13, 2022