Australia’s marine and coastal environments contribute to our economy and social wellbeing. Our ocean ecosystems clean and regulate our air and water. They also provide vital habitats and breeding grounds for a rich array of species.
Ocean accounts organise data so we can describe the complex environmental and economic systems present in our oceans. We use them to inform decisions about how we manage our oceans.
Ocean accounts compile information from diverse disciplines on ocean-based attributes and activities, including:
- coral reefs
- resource management.
How you can use the ocean accounts
Ocean accounts can help us to make better decisions about how we manage our marine ecosystems and resources. These resources are connected and are shared by all people on our planet.
Ocean accounts can help decision makers in the private and public sectors. It helps them better understand the long-term implications of their decisions.
Ocean accounts can involve:
- tracking the size and changing structure of the ocean economy and the condition of the marine environment
- identifying the jobs and industries which rely on specific ocean ecosystems.
Ocean accounting endorsed by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy
The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) is an initiative of 14 world leaders who are building momentum for a sustainable ocean economy in which effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand in hand.
As a member of the Ocean Panel, the Australian Government has supported a range of priority actions outlined in the Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, A Vision for Protection, Production and Prosperity (see ocean accounting excerpt below).
ACCOUNT FOR THE VALUE OF THE OCEAN
Measurement of progress for the ocean economy is overly focused on production indicators such as contribution to gross domestic product. With current data and technology, it is now possible for all countries to account for the status of the natural wealth of the ocean—the most important measure of progress towards sustainability of the ocean economy. The development and integration of ocean accounts into national accounts can provide a dynamic evidence base that goes beyond a single indicator of production to reflect the full value of the ocean economy.
2030 OUTCOME: Decision-making affecting the ocean reflects the value of an impacts on the ocean’s natural capital.
- Develop a complete sequence of national ocean accounts that are actively used to inform decision-making.
- Align international standards for ocean accounting and best practices for implementation as soon as possible to develop and ensure interoperability, harmonisation and coherence of ocean accounts.
- Commit to global partnerships to share best practices and build capacity in national ocean accounting.
- Explore a process to develop a global approach for tracking national performance based on ocean accounts.
The Australian Government has invested $1.1 million over 2 years (commencing 2021-22) to support planning for the roll out of ocean accounting at a national scale. In parallel to this planning, the feasibility of Australia’s first national ocean account is being assessed (see account development below). National ocean accounting provides robust measurement of the blue economy and ecosystem services which supports decision-making in relation to the use and management of ocean resources.
Australia’s first national ocean account
Ocean accounting for the environment is still at the early stages of development. Australia is scoping the feasibility of a National Ocean Ecosystem Account (National Account), focussed initially on blue carbon ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass, salt marsh and kelp.
Blue carbon ecosystems are key features of coastal marine environments and communities, including by supporting marine industries such as commercial and recreational fishing. The National Account may include the extent and condition of these ecosystems and a selection of key ecosystem services they provide such as carbon storage and sequestration, and coastal protection.
The National Account will be developed in partnership with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and in consultation with other commonwealth agencies, jurisdictions, experts and end users. The National Account will be driven by user needs and aims to provide foundational information for multiple end users, supporting decision making on sustainable resource use and management.
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Pilot ocean accounts
In 2020-21 Australia supported 2 ocean account pilot projects to apply and test an ocean accounting methodology developed by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.