Coasts and marine

Marine pollution

Sea dumping

Australia currently regulates the deliberate loading, dumping and incineration of waste at sea under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 and the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment Act 1986. The waters surrounding Australia's coastline are increasingly threatened by pollution from wastes dumped at sea. To reduce this threat, there are Australian Government laws that control dumping at sea.

Dumping permits

Permits from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities are required for all sea dumping operations. Currently, about 30 permits are issued in Australia per year, mainly for the dumping of uncontaminated dredge spoil. Applications can be obtained from the Department or the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (if the dumping is to take place within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park).

Artificial reefs

Artificial Reefs are regulated under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981. An application for a permit to create an artificial reef must be obtained from the Department. Additional permits may also be required under relevant State legislation.

Land based marine pollution

Poor water quality and sediment quality are the most serious known pollution issues affecting Australia's coastal and marine environments. The 1995 State of the Marine Environment Report found that pollution from the land contributes up to 80 percent of all marine pollution and is a major threat to the long-term health of nearshore marine systems. It affects ecological processes, public health and social and commercial use of marine resources. For more information visit the State of the Environment, Coasts and Oceans Reporting. The following links are past and present Australian Government initiatives that promotes tackling marine pollution at source.

The Australian Government's current activities are:

Coastal acid sulfate soils

Acid sulfate soils (ASS) is the term usually given to soils or sand that contain iron sulfides (pyrite). In an undisturbed state, coastal acid sulfate soils are relatively harmless. However, when exposed to oxygen, through drainage or excavation, sulfuric acid is produced in large quantities. After rain, particularly following prolonged dry periods, this acid is mobilised in the soil profile, carrying with it other liberated toxins such as heavy metals. This toxic cocktail eventually flows into surrounding waterways significantly decreasing water quality.

Maritime pollution

The Department works co-operatively with other Australian Government and State agencies on domestic and international maritime pollution policy and its implementation. This includes participation in the International Maritime Organisation and the domestic ANZECC Maritime Accidents and Pollution Implementation Group (MAPIG). Current issues include ballast water, toxic anti-foulants, introduced marine pests, pollution from shipping operations and marine debris.

Ballast water and introduced marine pests

Ballast water is a major source of introduced marine pests. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) is the lead agency for the management of ballast water taken up outside Australian waters with the intention of discharge within an Australian port. Part of AQIS's charter is to ensure that foreign ballast water has been managed in accordance with the Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements before permitting its discharge inside Australia's territorial sea (12 nautical limit generally applies).

Australian ballast water management requirements are consistent with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) guidelines for minimising the risk of translocation of harmful aquatic species in ships' ballast water.


What is biofouling?

Biofouling occurs when marine organisms attach to, and grow on, objects such as hulls, anchors, cables, fenders, cordage, tenders - in fact, just about anything that's in regular contact with the sea.

Biofouling adversely affects the performance of a marine vessel and can increase the risk of spreading harmful marine invasive species.

To reduce the effects of biofouling it is recommended that vessel hulls have an effective anti-fouling treatment applied. Further information on Biofouling Maintenance Guidelines is available at: 

Marine waste reception facilities

Under the Natural Heritage Trust, the Marine Waste Reception Facilities Program funded projects that demonstrated the establishment of best practice facilities for the management and treatment of marine waste at ports, marinas and boat harbours around Australia. Funding is no longer available for this program.

For more information read about the past Marine Waste Reception Facilities Program under the first phase Natural Heritage Trust .