Australia has one of the world’s largest marine estates that includes many vulnerable habitats and a high biodiversity, with many endemic species crossing a wide latitudinal range. The marine estate is used by a variety of industries including fishing, oil & gas, and shipping, in addition to traditional, cultural, scientific and recreational uses. The Commonwealth government has recently established the Australian Marine Parks (AMPs), the largest network of marine protected areas in the world, complementing existing networks in State and Territory waters.
Monitoring the impacts of these uses on the marine environment is a massive shared responsibility that can only be achieved by making the best use of all the information that is collected. Australia now has a number of significant long-term marine monitoring and observing programs, as well as a national ocean data network. Without some common and agreed standards, much of the information collected will not be comparable with other areas or sectors. This may reduce its value to regional and national management, while the individual project or survey may lose the opportunity to interpret results in a regional or national context.
We have therefore developed a suite of field manuals for the acquisition of marine benthic (i.e. seafloor) data from a variety of frequently-used sampling platforms so that data can become directly comparable in time and through space, thus supporting nationally relevant monitoring in Australian waters and the development of a monitoring program for the AMP network. This objective integrates with one of the eight high-level priorities identified by the National Marine Science Plan (2015-25): the establishment of national baselines and long-term monitoring.