For many Australians, the nation’s coasts and oceans are central to our self-image. These areas are some of our busiest locations and are among the fastest growing economic sectors. However, the fragmented way we currently manage and govern the ecological and social processes that connect ocean and coastal waterways puts them under threat.
Future Earth Australia’s sustainable oceans and coasts initiative is set to develop a Ten-Year National Strategy to ensure that these areas remain healthy and resilient. This Strategy will outline the steps needed to transform how we think about, govern, and protect oceans and coasts across Australia, and serve as a blueprint for the national transformational change that Australia’s oceans and coasts need.
This week, Future Earth Australia is pleased to announce the formation of an Expert Working Group that will provide strategic direction and development of the Strategy. This initiative, generously supported by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, will represent a unique, cross-sectoral, transdisciplinary effort to improve Australia’s ocean and coastal future.
The Expert Working Group, co-chaired by Dr Beth Fulton of CSIRO and Emeritus Professor Nick Harvey of the University of Adelaide, comprises a group of leading experts across ocean and coastal research, practice and policy from around Australia. This group will oversee the development of the strategy, providing their deep working knowledge of Australian oceans and coasts and contributing to the writing of the Strategy.
The Strategy is poised to make waves globally as well as locally, as worldwide initiatives for the decade are focused on oceans and coasts. The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development will run 2021-2030, with a strong focus on ocean health and sustainable development of the ocean. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which will also run 2021-2030, is set to look to the oceans and coastal waters in helping to combat climate change, ensure food security and conserve biodiversity.
“To achieve a sustainable future, by meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and focusing on Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and Ecosystem Restoration, we need integration across sectors and expertise,” said Director of Future Earth Australia, Dr Tayanah O’Donnell.
“Our coasts and oceans are fundamental to securing futures for all Australians”.
The first meeting of the Expert Working Group will take place in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic. Professor Harvey noted that this crisis has demonstrated the importance of a coordinated and integrated approach across boundaries. “Our strategy should recognise that our oceans and coasts do not respect state or other jurisdictional boundaries. We need a coordinated and sustainable approach”.
The different sectors of the ‘Blue Economy’, the industries that operate in the ocean and along its coastal margin, are seen as an important part of future sustainable development. It is important however, that the sustainability ethic is not lost.
“If anything good can come from COVID-19, it is using the disruption as a pivot point to embed sustainability at the core of what we do going forward, to put us in a better place to deliver,” said Dr Fulton.
The Sustainable Oceans and Coasts strategy will be the second targeted strategy created by FEA, following the successful development of an urban sustainability plan that was launched in December 2019 at the State of Australian Cities Conference. This plan was developed through extensive consultation with key stakeholders across sectors and Australian cities and written by an expert reference group representing urban research, practice and policy and the FEA Secretariat.
The next steps of the Sustainable Oceans and Coasts initiative will include a series of virtual consultation workshops and interviews with key stakeholders, as well as opportunities for written submissions.