Australia lays claim to the third largest marine jurisdiction of any nation on Earth. This territory was extended by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which recently confirmed the location of the outer limit of Australia's continental shelf in nine distinct marine regions in areas beyond 200 nautical miles.
Australia's coasts and oceans hold a special place in the national psyche, particularly since 85 per cent of the population lives within 50 km of the coastline. They contain icons such as Ningaloo Reef and the Great Barrier Reef, the Kimberley Coast, the Great Australian Bight and the southern and Antarctic waters. All these areas have high levels of biodiversity, much of which is endemic to the region and still largely unknown. Australia's coastal regions and estuaries provide fisheries recruitment and ecosystem services, while its beaches, bays and reefs are the basis of its international tourism sector. However, Australia's coastal communities (projected to continue growing) are placing major pressures on the coastal marine environment through urban development, agriculture, ports, harbours and marine transport, fisheries, tourism and recreation, storm water run off, wastewater discharge and pollution.
Most of Australia's exports and imports are shipped by sea. Its maritime borders need protecting in the face of illegal migration, illegal harvesting of marine resources and the accidental or deliberate introduction of marine pests and diseases.
The oceans surrounding this island continent hold the key to Australia's climate. The cycles of droughts and floods are controlled by ocean circulation patterns and their interaction with the atmosphere in the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans. Droughts and floods, including the prolonged drought underway in parts of Australia, greatly affect Australia's economic, social and environmental wellbeing. Insufficient investment in science to support Government decision making is causing economic loss to Australia.
Based on Marine Nation 2025: Marine Science to Support Australia's Blue Economy. March 2013. Oceans Policy Science Advisory Group. 32 pp. Available electronically

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