Eco-management in the Spencer Gulf

With competing priorities – from fishing to mining, agriculture, energy and community values – management of the Spencer Gulf ecosystem is akin to walking a tightrope between commercial and environmental interests.

As South Australia’s growing mining sector, along with other industry development, leads to increased concerns regarding shipping, wharf facilities, and desalination of seawater in the Spencer Gulf, the region is under increased pressure to maintain its balance. These circumstances were the catalyst for the creation of the Spencer Gulf Ecosystem and Development Initiative. Led by the University of Adelaide’s Professor Bronwyn Gillanders and Simon Divecha, the initiative is driving responsible decision-making for a thriving gulf region.

The University’s Environment Institute is central to developing the program, with Marine Innovation SA (MISA), SARDI (South Australian Research and Development Institute), Aquatic Sciences and Flinders University as research collaborators. The five-year project brings together key partners – including major players BHP Billiton, Santos, Flinders Ports, Arrium, Centrex and Alinta – and the fishing industry, which is investing through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

It is attracting major funding as researchers gather stakeholder views from more than 300 people, review available information, and scope requirements for research around an integrated ocean management program.

Now in the midst of its second phase, the initiative’s research partners are undertaking significant investigations to establish an informed and evidence-based decision-making system regarding new developments, while maintaining ongoing stakeholder and community engagement.

Competition between fishing, mining and conservation can be difficult to manage, and presents real difficulties around Australia. However, the creators of this initiative believe that this consultation process, alongside the evidence developed, will be the key to its success. The initiative will support industry by offering more defined approval pathways and encourage evidence-based decision making. It will also set up a model by which information, data, tools, capabilities and networks can be shared.

The clever researchers, community and industries behind the Spencer Gulf Ecosystem and Development Initiative are playing a crucial role in ensuring the balance between commercial and environmental interests is maintained for everyone’s benefit.

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