During 2020, IDEEA Group completed an Ocean Accounting Pilot for Geographe Marine Park, Australia. The pilot was commissioned by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment in support of the High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLPO).
The pilot’s findings revealed a wide diversity of ecosystem services and other values currently derived from the Marine Park, including recreational values, carbon storage and sequestration, and the fish nursery services that underpin commercial and recreational fishing.
The results of the project are summarised in the project Synthesis Report and detailed in four technical reports which include the complete set of initial accounts, methods, data inventory and data assessment.
The pilot is part of a suite of projects being rolled out by the Commonwealth Government on environmental-economic accounting to to support Australia’s participation in the High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy. The work is also a key early initiative under the Australian Government’s National Strategy and Action Plan for Environmental-Economic Accounting.
- The “Ocean accounting pilot for Geographe Marine Park” project is the first Australian Government led ocean environmental-economic account developed under the National Strategy and Action Plan for Environmental-Economic Accounting.
- The pilot accounting project applied internationally accepted accounting frameworks and technical guidance in an Australian marine context, building Australian and international experience in ocean accounting.
- The outcomes from the pilot ocean accounts demonstrate how ocean accounting can be used in policy and management planning. The structured information set resulting from the project can be used by Parks Australia to inform ongoing management of Australian Marine Parks.
- The pilot accounting project estimated the extent of seagrass, sandy bottom, rocky reef and kelp ecosystems in Geographe Marine Park, assessed the services and benefits provided by those ecosystems, and identified some potential human induced pressures on the marine park.
- Data collected as part of an accounting approach can inform the evaluation of management interventions related to Geographe Marine Park. Consistent data collection both inside and outside of Geographe Marine Park and across time is necessary for cause and effect analysis.
- The project provides a foundation for future investments in regularly updated ocean ecosystem accounts to enable evidence-based policy, including planning and strategy, regulation, management decisions and return on investment analysis.
- Environmental-economic accounting can add value to current monitoring approaches by organising existing data into an integrated and coherent narrative across multiple dimensions. Historically and in this project, bespoke data collection processes and missing information have impeded integration from occurring.
- The project has demonstrated that some ocean accounting could be scaled up to the national level effectively using existing data and leveraging the knowledge gained during this project. However, changes in scale are likely to change the purpose and use of accounts.
- The authors recommend any national rollout be accompanied by targeted investment in data collection, capacity building and research. Wherever possible, data collection should align with environmental-economic accounting guidelines and standards.
- There is a need for the development of consistent national methods for the collection of environmental data so the data can be integrated and readily incorporated into environmental-economic accounts.
- As ocean accounting evolves and additional data is collected, it will be important to update the accounts to incorporate changes in asset type, quantity, and quality as the composition of services and benefits will also change.