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Ocean advisory panel calls for 10-year strategy

The federal government in Australia should develop a 10-year marine science strategy to make the most of its natural resources, a report published this month by the government’s Oceans Policy Science Advisory Group has said. 

The implementation of the strategy would be overseen by a formally constituted steering committee for national marine science. This seven-to-nine-person panel of scientists would advise the government on gaps in existing research, infrastructure requirements and resource issues that need to be addressed. 

The report, the follow-up to a 2009 publication, is aimed at framing a national discussion on the challenges facing Australia’s “ocean estate”. It identifies six national challenges, including energy security, biodiversity, climate change, food security and resource allocation. All of these areas should be supported with investment in research.

The group estimates that the ocean will contribute $100 billion a year to the Australian economy if opportunities in areas such as renewable energy are acted on, but environmental pressures may be an increasing problem.

On energy, the group suggests that research, analysis and exploration of the marine estate will lead to the discovery of oil and gas reserves and ways to exploit renewable resources.

Research is also needed to allow Australia’s aquaculture industry to grow, become more sustainable and make the most out of Asian markets. Developing infrastructure will be central to this goal, particularly to support research on Atlantic salmon, Australia’s fastest-growing seafood industry.

For ocean observation, the report calls on the government to make sure that RV Investigator, a vessel due to launch this year, is sustainably funded in the long term. Procuring another vessel with ice-breaking capability is a “time-critical priority”, and the marine observation stations that operate around the country should be working together as a network.