Year

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Abstract

Marine protected areas (MPAs) have been recognised and endorsed as a holistic, ecosystem-based, spatially-explicit alternative to the conventional sectoralised, species-specific approaches to address the deteriorating state of the marine environment and its resources. However, the decision to establish MPAs, particularly large marine parks, often generates controversies with respect to the uncertainties over the perceived costs and benefits of MPAs to different stakeholders. Nonetheless, there is consensus that MPAs have a pivotal role in marine conservation. The purpose of this study is to provide an analysis of the adequacy of the regulatory regime provided by the current system of MPAs in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, for the conservation of marine biodiversity.

The implementation of the NSW Representative System of MPAs (as part of the National Representative System of MPAs) provides the planning and management framework for the conservation of marine biodiversity, the maintenance of critical ecological processes and the sustainable utilisation of marine resources. The current system of MPAs in NSW comprises three different types of MPA: marine parks (declared under the Marine Parks Act 1997), aquatic reserves (declared under the Fisheries Management Act 1994), and marine extensions of terrestrial protected areas (TPAs) such as coastal national parks or nature reserves (declared under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974). Each type of MPA has its strengths and limitations. The adequacy of each of the three types of MPA is assessed on the basis of the capacity (in terms of the power under the relevant laws and regulations to impose prohibitions or restrictions) to address the five major categories of threats (unsustainable exploitation, habitat loss, pollution, invasive species and climate change) to marine biodiversity.

The outcomes of the analyses of adequacy of the three types of MPA in NSW indicate that only marine parks have the capacity to adequately address all the perceived threats (with the exception of the threats associated with climate change) to marine biodiversity. The other key finding from this study is the complementarities between marine parks and coastal national parks/nature reserves, whereby the strengths of marine parks tend to coincide with the weaknesses of national parks/nature reserves (which are fundamentally terrestrial protected areas, or TPAs), and vice versa. The significance of these findings is that the delivery of optimal conservation outcomes may be achieved either by extending the concept of marine parks by declaring all of coastal waters of NSW as one or more large marine managed areas, or via the coupling of marine parks with coastal national park or nature reserves that combines the strengths, and the extent of spatial and functional coverage, of MPAs and TPAs.

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