Marine Protected Areas are areas of sea that are dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biodiversity and natural and cultural resources. Marine protected areas (e.g. marine parks, nature reserves and other marine protected areas) are managed through legal or other effective means, and can include seagrass meadows, reefs, shipwrecks, archaeological sites, mudflats, salt marshes, mangroves, tidal lagoons, rock platforms, deep water seabed areas and underwater areas on the coast.
The benefits of Marine Protected Areas as outlined by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts include:
- the maintenance of biodiversity;
- the protection of endangered or threatened species such as whales, turtles and their habitats;
- enhancing commercial fisheries by ensuring catch limits are sustainable and breeding areas are not degraded; and
- the conservation of sites of Aboriginal significance as well as other cultural heritage.
Indicators that track progress toward the development and implementation of a representative system of marine protected areas in Australia have been suggested for State of the Environment reporting for the Coasts and Oceans volume (formerly Estuaries and the Sea). Indicator 7.12 includes the number and areas of formerly declared marine protected areas or similar (e.g. World Heritage Sites and Ramsar Wetlands).
Monitoring design and strategies, reporting scales, outputs and guidelines for analysis and interpretation can be found in the Estuaries and the Sea volume of Environmental Indicators for National State of the Environment Reporting ((Ward, T., Butler, E. and Hill, B. 1998. Environmental Indicators for National State of the Environment Reporting, Estuaries and the Sea, Commonwealth of Australia, pp. 81 (www.ea.gov.au/soe/coasts/estuaries-ind.html))).
Consult the Marine Protected Areas website for more information.