Supporting Australian aid to Pacific islands and the Coral Triangle

Marine Biodiversity Hub scientists are applying knowledge and experience gained during their guiding role in Australia’s marine bioregional planning process to support the nation’s international interests in marine sustainable development.
View over water from beach.

IMAGE: Regional aid projects must provide enduring regional and local capacity, and support new governance where needed Image: Piers Dunstan.

They have helped marine planners in the region by translating techniques for identifying and communicating values and threats. To be effective, however, regional aid projects must provide enduring regional and local capacity, and support the development and implementation of new governance where needed. Realistically, this will only come after 10–20 years. Collaboration between the Marine Biodiversity Hub and the Australian Government is providing both the scientific and governance experience required to achieve sustainable outcomes.

Enhancing Pacific Ocean Governance

In 2010, twenty-three Pacific Island leaders endorsed the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape, a conservation and sustainable management framework designed to support regional livelihoods and food security. Implementing the framework requires new knowledge, effectively communicated for a governance framework that has the authority to act.Australia is supporting several actions identified in the Oceanscape framework through the Australian-aid funded Enhancing Pacific Ocean Governance (EPOG) project. Participants include Geoscience Australia, the Attorney-General’s Department and Department of the Environment, CSIRO and the University of Sydney.

Hub researchers are working with regional agencies and individual countries as part of the EPOG project. Tools and expertise developed under the Commonwealth Environmental Research Facility (the forerunner of NERP) and NERP marine biodiversity hubs have made significant contributions. Scientists have prepared information for the Department, provided advice on policy drivers, and facilitated an understanding of Key Ecological Features as a means of prioritising monitoring and management.

Tropical beach.

IMAGE: Marine Biodiversity Hub researchers are working with the Australian Government, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the University of Wollongong to provide options for developing regional governance to support existing community-based fisheries in Kiribati. Image: Piers Dunstan

The experience has allowed Australian scientists, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to reach rapid agreement on processes fundamental to marine planning. These include the development of a regional information sharing system (now under way) and a process to help individual countries (such as Kiribati) access and use the information to support local marine spatial planning.

Coral Triangle Initiative

Marine Biodiversity Hub scientists are also assisting the Department in its engagement with the Coral Triangle Initiative, which supports coral reef protection and management across six countries: Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. Existing and new ecological and socio-economic datasets are being linked to foster an improved understanding of key regional-scale and transboundary issues, particularly those relating to Regional Goal 1 of the Regional Plan of Action: ‘Priority seascapes designated and effectively managed’. Coastal livelihoods, climate, resource management and deep sea mining are issues under consideration.

This ongoing project will support improved marine management by helping governments to understand the distribution of biological assets and the means by which activities at a local scale could be integrated into national policy.


Piers Dunstan
(03) 6232 5382