Need for Subprogram

Overview of the ESD Reporting and Assessment (ESDRA) Subprogram

Need for ESDRA Subprogram

Developing a national approach to effectively deliver Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) outcomes for Australian fisheries is not a simple task.  The concepts involved in ESD include:

  • Some, which traditionally have been well studied by fisheries agencies (e.g. retained species).
  • Some, which have only had recent attention (e.g. ecosystem issues).
  • Some, where there has been minimal attention (e.g. economic and social issues).

Moreover, even in the areas where there has been considerable effort, it is not clear that there is uniform acceptance of how any outcomes relate to ESD assessment and reporting.

The need to understand the scope and have the appropriate management arrangements and sufficient technical knowledge to enable assessments of ESD to be made for all Australian fisheries has increased substantially in recent years.  The driving forces behind ESD assessment and reporting include legislative changes at the Commonwealth level – to the Wildlife Protection (REI) Act 1982 and the introduction of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 – and the implementation of the Oceans Policy strategies.

There are also varying requirements within each State jurisdiction to meet general government commitments to ESD, particularly when these are explicitly part of their fisheries and/or environmental legislation.

Finally, completing such ESD assessments – and more importantly being able to gain some form of environmental accreditation for them – is likely to become increasingly important for market access and leverage in the coming years.

A significant amount of work will be required to complete this process of implementing ESD assessment and reporting into Australian fisheries.  A number of studies are already in progress, addressing some of the issues mentioned above.  Moreover, a number of issues will require alterations to current studies, but, more generally. the development of a suite of new projects.  The issues to be addressed include:

  • Developing relevant expertise to collect and interpret data for the social and economic components.
  • Effective communication of the issues with regard to implementing ESD assessment and reporting into Australian fisheries to all major stakeholder groups.
  • Developing the framework and the guidelines to enable the process to become a true method of assessment, not just of reporting.
  • Developing ecological indicators.
  • Testing of the robustness of currently used and proposed ESD performance indicators.

The effective coordination of all current and future ESD-related projects is essential if the ultimate aim of having a nationally agreed system of ESD assessment and reporting is to be successful.  As the majority of these projects will be at least partly funded by FRDC, this provides the opportunity to supply the necessary coordination through the operation of the ESD Reporting and Assessment (ESDRA) Subprogram.

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