With an exclusive economic zone covering almost 9,000,000 km2—the third largest in the world, Australia has always been at the forefront of the development of policies that address the difficulties of oceans governance. In 1998, Australia’s Oceans Policy (AOP) was released with the broad goal to achieve full integration across sectors and jurisdictions through ecosystem-based approaches to implementation. Although the AOP did not achieve this broad goal, it did establish a MSP process for the entire Commonwealth marine jurisdiction. Its jurisdiction spanned from 3 to 200 nm offshore and did not include the coastal zone or state jurisdiction from the low water mark to 3 nm.
After the AOP’s first five-year review, its focus changed from a broad multiple use perspective to an environmental one. The most significant change was the replacement of RMPs with MBPs. The ecosystem-based approach to management was pursued initially through Regional Marine Plans (RMPs), later redefined as Marine Bioregional Plans (MBPs). Only one RMP was completed—the South-east RMP (see Key MSP Documents).
The original RMP approach was designed to incorporate broadly social and economic objectives. RMP were to use more broadly and to use ‘multiple use principles to generate income and employment and to optimise long-term benefits to the community’. However, this is not the focus in the MBP process. MBPs do examine social and economic conditions of each region within the Bioregional Profiles. Each profile examines the ‘human activities’ within the region in detail and this information is supporting documentation for the final plans. However, the final plans focus on the environmental conditions of the regions as a priority. MBPs are based on large ecosystems and describe the marine environment and conservation values of each marine region, set out broad biodiversity objectives, identify regional priorities and outline strategies and actions to address these priorities (adapted from Vince 2014).