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Moreton Bay Marine Park—Scientific Guiding Principles


The independent expert advisory panel provided advice to the department on scientific matters relating to the Moreton Bay Marine Park Zoning Plan review.

The panel's members had specialist knowledge in marine science including, but not limited to, marine reserve design, fisheries, marine conservation, environmental economics and social science.

The development of Scientific Guiding Principles (principles), which included biophysical and socio-economic guiding principles, was one of the key tasks for the Panel. The principles provided a framework to guide the zoning plan review and were a key component of the agreed analysis method of overlaying socio-economic, cultural and biophysical data to achieve a draft zoning plan.

The independent scientific recommendations provided by the panel were based on world's best practice in marine reserve design.

Biodiversity conservation and the current zoning plan

The Expert Advisory Panel believed the current level of no-take areas in Moreton Bay Marine Park did not provide suitable protection for the biodiversity values of the area because:

  • Moreton Bay Marine Park had just 0.5% included in no-take areas—well below international recommendations;
  • the no-take areas were small, widely separated areas, largely confined to coral reefs and mangrove habitats; and
  • many significant habitats within Moreton Bay Marine Park were not protected in no-take areas.

Amount of protection required

There are no hard and fast rules to determine the extent of protection required to conserve marine biodiversity and ensure long-term sustainability. Each region must be examined on its own merits and decisions made that take into account the unique aspects of its oceanography, geography, history, flora and fauna, as well as present and future socio-economic factors.

The International Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has recommended 10% of each country's marine ecological regions (i.e. habitat types) be conserved in marine protected areas. Amounts recommended in the scientific literature generally fall in the range of 20% to 40% of the ocean's environment in no-take areas1. Presently less than 1% of the world's oceans are protected in marine protected areas2.

Developing the guiding principles

The panel adopted the general principles of marine reserve design as set out in the criteria detailed in the table below along with the CAR principles (Comprehensiveness, Adequacy and Representativeness)3 when developing the principles for the review. The CAR principles are used to guide the identification, selection and design of no-take areas around the world.

The CAR principles of marine reserve design are:

  • Comprehensive: Includes the full range of habitat types (and other biodiversity features like species) in no-take areas recognised at an appropriate scale.
  • Adequate: Protects enough area to maintain the ecological viability and integrity of populations, species and communities.
  • Representative: Ensures that the examples of each biodiversity feature included in no-take areas are typical of that feature.

The expert advisory panel also recognised the need to consider potential impacts on human use of the marine park brought about by the zoning review, including industry, recreation and cultural pursuits. The Panel developed criteria to guide the development of socio-economic guiding principles. These were based on an efficient approach in which the reserve system should:

  • meet conservation goals while minimising the impact on other users; and
  • be compact, not fragmented, to ensure efficient management and enforcement.


(1) NRC (2001) Marine Protected Areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystem. National Research Council: Committee on Evaluation, Design and Monitoring of Marine Reserves and Protected Areas in the United States. National Academy Press, Washington DC

(2) WWF & Wood, L (2005) Ocean Protection: are we on track? WWF, Gland, Switzerland

(3) ANZECC TFMPA (1998) Guidelines for Establishing the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. Australia and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council Taskforce on Marine Protected Areas, Environment Australia, Canberra

Scientific Guiding Principles

Governing principle: 'to conserve the unique values (environmental, social, cultural and economic) of the marine park and to ensure its sustainable use for the enjoyment and benefit of present and future generations'.

Biophysical Guiding Principles

The Biophysical Guiding Principles are based on the CAR principles:

Criteria Principle Explanation
Habitat representation 1. Represent a minimum amount of each 'habitat type' in no-take areas Protect examples of each habitat type to ensure maintenance of habitats and associated biodiversity * within the marine park.

The Expert Advisory Panel has emphasised the need to set realistic targets based on International mandates, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Australia has signed up to the CBD which states at least 10% of each habitat type should be protected in a system of no-take areas. The Panel recommends that the CBD 10% minimum target be adopted in the Moreton Bay Marine Park Zoning Plan review. The Panel also notes the importance of continuing off-reserve management (e.g. fisheries management and water quality strategies) to protect marine habitats.

*Biodiversity is described as the variety of life forms and the habitats that make up a region.

Size and replication 2. Include adequate size and replication of 'habitat types' in no-take areas Each habitat type should be protected in more than one no-take area in a reserve network to protect the full range of habitat types as a precaution against major localised damage. Reserves should be large enough to adequately protect relevant species within habitats. Therefore, where possible larger reserves are preferred to smaller reserves to minimise edge effects*.

*Edge effects are defined as the change in species composition, physical conditions, or other ecological factors at the boundary between two ecosystems.

Connectivity 3. Provide connectivity within the network of no-take areas Reserves in a network should be adequately spaced to ensure the movement of species ensuring 'safe' distances in various ranges are included within the network design. 'Safe' distances, those that provide sufficient connectivity* to support populations in reserves, increase with reserve size.

*Connectivity is defined as the transfer of organisms (offspring, juveniles, adults) and genetic exchange between populations in different places.

Vulnerable habitats 4. Protect in no-take areas an adequate amount of vulnerable habitats Vulnerable marine and coastal habitats and associated animals and plants need to be effectively protected in no-take areas. These habitat types are defined as 'vulnerable' as they typically are easily disturbed or transformed by human actions and recovery is slow (e.g. coral reefs and seagrass beds). The extent of protection depends on the degree of vulnerability of the habitat and may exceed the minimum 10% target.
Vulnerable life stages 5. Adequately protect species' vulnerable life-stages in no-take areas Vulnerable life stages of species need to be effectively protected in no-take areas. The inclusion of localities where a species becomes especially vulnerable, or which are vital for completion of their life cycle (such as critical nursery areas, spawning or nesting sites), adds value to a candidate area.
Species and areas of special interest 6. Include species, populations and areas of special interest in no-take areas Species and populations of conservation concern such as threatened, rare, endangered or restricted-range species need to be effectively protected in no-take areas. Areas of special interest, such as areas with particular geomorphologic features; naturalness, amenity or cultural values; or areas of conservation concern need to be effectively protected in no-take areas. The inclusion of species/populations and areas of special interest may heighten the need to protect a candidate area.
Ecosystem linkages 7. Include consideration of ecosystem links among habitats and of sea and adjacent land uses in determining no-take areas Areas that support other habitats (ecosystem links), or are dependent on other habitats, need to be protected. Past and present uses may have influenced the integrity of biological communities, and need to be considered when choosing no-take areas. For example, existing no-take areas and areas adjacent to terrestrial protected areas are likely to have greater biological integrity than areas that have been used for resource exploitation. Building upon these areas is a good starting point for a marine reserve network.
Resilience 8. Provide for future resilience against natural or human-induced changes or threatening processes Areas that are less likely to be subject to impacts and have a high degree of naturalness (i.e. less exploited) need to be considered for no-take areas to ensure greater resilience against future change or threats.
Adaptive management 9. Design a reserve network to provide for scientific assessment of zoning effectiveness Queensland legislation provides for the review of the zoning plan every 10 years. Decisions about revision of the zoning should be soundly based on scientific evidence of the effectiveness with which they serve the governing principle of the marine park. Design of the zoning should therefore take into account scientific best practice in experimental design and monitoring.

Socio-economic Guiding Principles

The Socio-economic Guiding Principles are based on an efficient approach in which zoning should:

  • meet conservation goals while minimising the impact on other users; and
  • be compact, not fragmented, to ensure efficient management and enforcement.
Criteria Principle Explanation
Balancing conservation and sustainable use 1. Ensure the final selection of zones recognises social, economic, cultural and environmental costs and benefits The final zoning selection needs to be made recognising the costs and benefits to the community. This acknowledges the objective to achieve a balance between conservation goals and the need for continued sustainable use.
Minimise impacts 2. Minimise the impact of zoning on human interactions with the Marine Park including access, activities, values and aspirations Any proposed zoning should minimise impacts on users of the marine park. For example, fishing and boating should remain a significant and integral activity within the marine park and Traditional Owners' aspirations for their sea country and the importance of the marine park should be recognised. Engagement of stakeholders and the community in a participatory process that is open and transparent should be ongoing throughout the review process.
Management complementarity 3. Complement, where possible, other management mechanisms and arrangements that affect the Marine Park In considering zoning options, other arrangements that may protect and/or manage the marine environment should be taken into account to minimise conflict and provide greater operational clarity. As part of the review other environmental conservation legislation, management of use and major initiatives to protect the marine park's values should be considered. For example, policies and strategies dealing with marine pollution, international wetlands, national parks, fisheries management, water quality and coastal development all have some relevance to marine park management. During the review, information about these issues is to be provided to the agencies and organisations that manage them. Native title claim areas will be acknowledged.
Efficient and practical 4. Maximise the understanding of the Marine Park and the manageability of zones The final zoning plan should consider operational and implementation issues to help provide for efficient management and enforcement. Uses in the marine park should be consistent, where practicable, with other State marine parks to help the community understand and appreciate conservation and use of the marine environment. An awareness campaign to maximise the understanding of the marine park should also be conducted.
Last updated
20 March 2015