Australia and New Caledonia share a maritime boundary in the Coral Sea where their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) meet. A Declaration of Intentions between France-New Caledonia and Australia on the Sustainable Management of the Coral Sea aims to improve scientific collaboration and apply a cross border approach to the area. A workshop on Coral Sea Transboundary Collaboration was held in Brisbane 25-26 March 2013, bringing together 37 marine scientists and government staff from Australia, France and New Caledonia to discuss transboundary interests and issues.
Following the welcoming addresses by the Australian and New Caledonia government representatives, transboundary topics were presented as seminars on:
- Ecologically significant and migratory species (e.g. turtles, sharks, birds, whales)
- Deep water environments (e.g. depths >100 metres, benthos and oceanography)
- Shallow water environments (e.g. depths <100 metres, coral reefs, cays)
- Pressures on the marine environment (e.g. marine debris, mining, fishing, climate change).
Delegates then split into three working groups: (1) Migratory species, (2) Deep water environments, and (3) Shallow water environments, to discuss what are the key transboundary issues of interest to collaborative management of the Coral Sea? What do we know about these issues and what are the key gaps in knowledge? What are the priorities for future collaborative work?
Each of the three working groups then presented their observations, which led to a consensus that Australia and New Caledonia should aim for ecosystem-based management to support collaborative management of the Coral Sea. A suggested next step would be a synthesis of existing physical and biological data to produce an inventory of species and their patterns. This would help identify to what extent the Coral Sea is a functional ecosystem and what scientific data are required to fill the gaps.
The Coral Sea Workshop was an exciting collaboration, bringing together a wide variety of experience and ideas to show how science can support management. My thanks go to the staff at SEWPAC and CMAR for hosting the workshop at the Brisbane Ecosciences Precinct, and to the other French and Australian delegates for their stimulating discussions.