Marine Environment


Marine and coastal habitats comprise some of the most productive and valued ecosystems of the world. They are also some of the most heavily degraded, especially where human pressure on coastlines is ever increasing. We are using marine resources faster than they can naturally recover. 

Along with growing coastal human populations come numerous human activities both at land and sea, which can negatively impact or threaten coastal marine environments. Longstanding threats, such as trawling, chemical and building waste pollution, and newer problems such as microplastics are not being well addressed. Climate change places further pressure on marine species and threatens the biodiversity of our marine environments. 

2021 to 2030 is the UN Ocean Decade, based on science demonstrating that the ocean holds the keys to a sustainable and equitable planet. In NSW this means introducing far greater levels of protection to ensure marine habitats survive into the future. Strong national and state environment laws impose clear duties to protect the marine environment, protect and recover threatened species’ habitats, ensuring fisheries are sustainable.


The Greens NSW believe:

1. In the intrinsic worth of the marine environment and the need to protect and conserve it for future generations.

2. In the creation of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) providing the highest level of protection through no-take zones for the full range of ecosystems.

3. In well managed and enforced no-take marine sanctuaries as the best way to protect our marine ecosystems.

4. In the recognition of First Nations’ Custodianship over all elements of the marine environment, including water, rocky reefs and islands, and the rights of First Nations Peoples to exercise management and stewardship over marine resources.

5. In the rights of local communities and community-based groups to participate in planning and management of marine areas.

6. All policies and initiatives affecting marine areas should be informed by scientific research and include monitoring and evaluation to determine their effectiveness over time.

7. In effective and genuine public participation in the design and implementation of management plans for MPAs.

8. In sustainable recreational and commercial fishing in marine areas other than no-take sanctuary zones.

9. In sustainable employment-transition programs to assist commercial fishers and people employed in associated industries whose livelihoods are affected by changes in marine management practices.

10. In strict regulation and control of pollution entering estuaries and the marine Additional point to strengthen policy and recognise effects of pollution.


The Greens NSW will work towards:

11. The creation of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for all marine ecosystems, with the highest levels of protection afforded to ecologically significant areas through declaration of no- take marine sanctuaries of sufficient size and connectivity to ensure effective conservation of their biodiversity;

12. Introducing legislated targets of a minimum of 30 percent of each representative marine ecosystem and bioregion being fully protected in no-take sanctuary zones to ensure that a Comprehensive Adequate and Representative (CAR) regime can be effective in the State’s waters and offshore areas;

13. Establishing an independent statutory body to ensure best practice and transparency in all decision making regarding marine resources including ecosystems, habitat types and species;

14. Supporting the resourcing of the rapid introduction of recovery plans and threat-abatement plans for all marine threatened species with priority given to those that are listed as ‘critically endangered’ under state legislation or under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;

15. Implementing a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of intertidal protection zones along the coastline;

16. Protecting and regenerating aquatic habitat, such as mangrove, saltmarsh, kelp forests and seagrass;

17. Safeguarding against the loss of marine habitats, such as rocky reef, deep ocean reef and island reef through fishing practices such as bottom trawling;

18. Establishing a framework for ecosystem management incorporating effective and genuine public consultation, including with First Nations People, sustainable fishery assessment and management plans for recreational and commercial fishing;

19. Ensuring all commercially harvested fish stocks are regularly assessed and their sustainable harvest levels determined and enforced;

20. Ensuring implementation of by-catch avoidance techniques of fishing, as well as requiring the mandatory reporting on the extent and make up of by-catch by commercial fishers;

21. Working with commercial fishers to establish a system of adequate compensation and/or alternative employment should the creation of a marine park result in the loss of earnings;

22. Rapid phasing out of targeted shark fishing, particularly for shark fins, unless it can be demonstrated that a targeted shark species can be harvested at sustainable levels;

23. Regulating recreational fishing appropriately to avoid threatening the sustainability of fish stocks in estuaries and marine environments.

24. Regulating fishing and spear-fishing competitions appropriately to avoid ecosystem damage and unsustainable take;

25. Ensuring that land-based aquaculture development does not occur within 1m of the Australian Height Datum.

26. Ensuring that ocean-based aquaculture is underpinned by principles of ecologically sustainable development and the species of fish culture are within their natural distribution ranges;

27. Ensuring that all species of ‘fish’ (as defined in the Fisheries Management Act 1994) are locally native to the area in any aquaculture development;

28. Regulating aquaculture ventures and ensuring they are approved only if they can demonstrate a better ecological outcome than from projected ecologically sustainable practises in the wild fishery for that species;

29. Addressing sources of marine and estuarine pollution such as acid sulphate soils, contaminants, marine debris such as nets and bait bags, stormwater runoff, nutrients, pesticides, heavy metals and fertilisers, dog faeces, ocean sewage outfalls, exfiltration of sewage contaminants from damaged sewerage piping;

30. Improving land management to reduce impacts on estuarine and marine ecosystems;

31. Restricting moorings in MPAs, particularly over seagrass beds, to existing, approved, permanent moorings;

32. Regulating ballast and bilge waters to prevent the introduction of noxious marine species into marine waters;

33. Restricting and eventually phasing out of all non-emergency vehicles on beaches, coastal dunes and undeveloped headlands;

34. Providing culturally appropriate education about safe beach practices, shark behaviour and fishing regulations;

35. Removal of shark meshing operations from beaches and the development of alternative methods of shark attack prevention;

36. Strict regulation of the use of seismic and other explosive devices, sonar equipment, and disruptive mining activities, and the banning of such activities in locations where, and at any time that it could cause harm to whale and other marine animal populations;

37. Maintaining the minimum-approach distance to whales and dolphins; and

38. Recognition that whales and dolphins are intelligent creatures that should not be considered merely as a resource to be conserved and harvested or kept in captivity.

39. A comprehensive international ban on commercial whaling, the abolition of so-called ‘scientific’ whaling, and an international ban on the sale of whale meat and by-products;

Related Policies

Biodiversity Policy
Coastal Management Policy
National Parks Policy
Tourism Policy
Wetlands Policy


Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

An area designated to protect marine ecosystems, processes, habitats and species, which can contribute to the restoration and replenishment of resources for social, economic and cultural enrichment.1 MPAs were first defined in 1994 by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), as either a marine park, aquatic reserve or marine extension of a national park or nature reserve.

Marine parks

A type of marine protected area which is zoned for multiple use allowing all activities aside from mining. In NSW there are 4 zonings within marine parks. Sanctuary zones are understood to be fully protected waters, whilst other zones allow for recreational and commercial fishing activities.2 In NSW marine parks all fishing activities are regulated by the zoning and operational plans for the park.

Marine sanctuaries (often called 'no-take' zones)

Fully protected waters which allow for diving, snorkelling, swimming and boating but where fishing is prohibited to allow marine life to recover. Marine sanctuaries can form all or part of marine protected areas depending on the zoning allocated to that marine protected area.

Aquatic reserves

These tend to be smaller marine protected areas with just one zoning type. The type of protection varies from reserve to reserve. For example, in some reserves, fishing is permitted, as long as bait is not collected in the reserve. In other places, fishing is prohibited and only diving and observing marine life is permitted.

Sustainability refers to the practice of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) principles:

1. the precautionary principle – if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.

2. Inter-generational equity – is about fairness between generations and that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment are maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations.

3. intra-generational equity –  is about fairness among the current generation, concerns equity within and between people and nations, and is essential for achieving environmental justice.

4. conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity – the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration for the maintenance of healthy, productive and functioning ecosystems.

5. integration of environmental, economic and social aspects into decision-making – the three pillars of sustainability must support each other simultaneously.

6. improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms  – that environmental factors should be included in the valuation of assets and services.3




3. Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991, Harding, Hendriks and Faruqi 2009

Revised August 2022