Hendy Cowan

Hendy Cowan


    Major Government commitment to marine research (with pic)

    13/12/2000 12:00 AM

    There is to be a major upgrading of marine research in Western Australia.

    Deputy Premier Hendy Cowan and the Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin, today announced details of a $20 million marine research initiative between the State Government and the CSIRO.

    WA’s contribution of $10 million will come from the Department of Commerce and Trade.

    On board the CSIRO research vessel Franklin at Fremantle, Mr Cowan said the decision to establish the jointly managed Strategic Research Fund for the Marine Environment would ensure WA’s marine-based industries continued to grow.

    It would also enable climate experts to better predict and monitor responses to tropical cyclones, such as Cyclone Sam, which struck the North-West on the weekend.

    Senator Minchin said that over the six-year term of the agreement, the CSRIO would increase its staff in WA by up to 30, creating additional opportunities for collaborative projects with local researchers and significantly increasing the State’s overall marine science capabilities.

    The Ministers said the decision to establish the fund had been arrived at through a highly consultative process.

    This was undertaken by the Marine Research Taskforce and involved input from all key stakeholders including industry associations, research, education and training institutions, State and Federal agencies and community groups.

    “The taskforce identified the State’s overall marine science priorities, particularly an overwhelming need for strategic or fundamental research, to underpin the complex decision making processes of agencies responsible for conservation and environmental management in our unique marine environment,” Mr Cowan said.

    “With this information, decisions about natural resource utilisation and industrial development can be made with confidence, in a timely and environmentally sustainable manner.

    “Research will be conducted in a range of priority areas including broad-scale oceanography, which will help in the planning and management of wild catch fisheries and offshore resources recovery.

    “Other areas will cover data collection on coastal processes and currents and monitoring marine habitats to understand natural variability.”

    Previous strategic research had reaped exceptional dividends.

    Research by CSIRO Marine and Fisheries WA on the Leeuwin Current in the late 1970s meant that the rock lobster catch - worth an average $250 million a year - could be predicted with 90 per cent probability ten months before the season began.

    Studies in Perth and southern metropolitan coastal waters, completed in 1994 at a cost of $15 million, assisted planning for waste discharge management systems for the next 40 years.

    Senator Minchin said the Commonwealth Government was keen to support marine research in WA.

    “The importance of marine research can be gauged by the considerable contribution marine-based industries make to Australia’s gross national product,” he said.

    “At present marine-based industries generate something like eight per cent of Australian gross national product, or $52 billion a year. That’s more than agriculture and all the flow-on industries that support agriculture. The figure is projected to reach $120 billion a year by 2020.

    “Approximately 50 per cent of that contribution comes from Western Australia’s industries. In addition, the State has 40 per cent of the Australian coastline and a major proportion of the country’s exclusive economic zone.”

    Media contact: Peter Jackson 9222-9595

    Deputy Premier Hendy Cowan (left), Senator Minchin, Dr Paul Wellings (CSIRO) and Dr Sue Meek (Commerce and Trade) in the wheelhouse of the research vessel Franklin at Fremantle.

    Chief of SCIRO marine research, Dr Nan Bray, announces details of the new marine research funding with Commerce and Trade executive director (science and technology) Dr Sue Meek and Deputy Premier Hendy Cowan.