Australian coastal communities could reap benefits of blue economy

February 10, 2021
Coastal communities like Bondi could benefit from a 'blue economy'. Photo by Kelvin Li on Unsplash.

Australian communities and decision makers are optimistic about their opportunities in a blue economy, but remain concerned about the wellbeing of coastal communities, a nation-wide consultation by Future Earth Australia (FEA) has found.

FEA today released outcomes papers from seven state and territory-based consultation workshops, which lay the foundations for its 10-Year Strategy on Ocean and Coastal Sustainability.

Dr Beth Fulton, co-chair of the expert working group, said the papers revealed that Australian oceans and coasts are threatened by the fragmented way they are managed.

“Not only does this fragmentation threaten our environment, but it stands in the way of a sustainable blue economy.

“Marine industries like offshore energy and sustainable aquaculture should only be developed in a manner that improves community prosperity and wellbeing, while also promoting thriving marine ecosystems.”

The consultations sought the perspectives of researchers, decision makers, practitioners, First Nations people and community groups.

Emeritus Professor Nick Harvey of the University of Adelaide, co-chair of the expert working group, said the consultations highlighted that urgent coastal and marine issues are not seeing proportionate attention in the policy agenda.

“While some of the most exciting coastal and ocean protection is being led by community groups and passionate people locally, many citizens are not aware of what is coming as the climate changes—like the increasing frequency and severity of coastal storms, or the decline in rivers and estuaries.”

While each state and territory outcomes paper highlighted issues important to their individual areas, common themes included:

  • A demand for a coherent and integrated governance system of ocean and coastal management that brings in all three levels of government,
  • A priority for the knowledge of First Nations people to be centred in knowledge and governance practices, and
  • A need for an open-access national platform for data and information sharing about data affecting the ocean and coast, such as ocean health and acidification and climate modelling around flood and fire risk.

FEA Director, Dr Tayanah O’Donnell, said the outcomes papers will inform the recommendations made in the 10-Year Strategy.

“Future Earth Australia strategies are grounded in grassroots actions and the applied reality of stewarding human and natural systems, along with high-level guidance from national leaders on the expert reference group.”

The 10-Year Strategy on Ocean and Coastal Sustainability, which will outline strategies for achieving healthy and resilient oceans and coasts for all of Australia, will be released in early 2021.

Future Earth Australia is a national peak initiative that enables Australian researchers, governments, industry and NGOs to collaborate with each other and with international networks and programs across Australia and Oceania.

This will be the second targeted strategy created by FEA, following the publication of an urban sustainability plan that was launched in December 2019 at the State of Australian Cities Conference.

The outcomes papers can be read here: https://www.futureearth.org.au/publications

Further information on FEA and the 10-Year Strategy: https://www.futureearth.org.au/initiatives/ocean-and-coastal-sustainability

© 2021 Australian Academy of Science

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