Integrated Ocean Stewardship

Our internationally recognized integrated ocean stewardship expertise and cutting-edge tools foster the sustainable growth of the blue economy and promote climate resilience in an increasingly crowded ocean. We provide support to national and international efforts through assessment of cumulative impacts, thresholds, and tipping points for marine systems. Our integrated system-level approaches break through existing sector-based management boundaries that hinder sustainable marine management.

Integrated Ocean Stewardship is about looking after Australia’s, and the world’s, ocean and coastal ecosystems. This involves conserving biodiversity but also ensuring that marine users follow the principles of the blue economy – sustainable and equitable use of ocean resources.

The domain works closely with many others on shared topics, such as food & energy security, plastics removal and looks to collaborate on emerging topics like integrating decarbonisation into day-today activities of marine industries, achieving true ocean stewardship.

The Blue Economy

The blue economy comprises the activities and industries based in marine and coastal environments. This rapidly expanding set of sectors is worth an estimated US$1.5 trillion globally and over $80 billion per annum in Australia. The Australian activities have doubled in value over the last decade and are predicted to grow further still in the coming decade, especially on the back of large investments in infrastructure and resource development.

Australia’s fisheries are renowned for product quality and sustainability and aquaculture is the fastest growing global food-producing sector. The highest per capita consumers of seafood located in Asia, on Australia’s doorstep, providing a large market for high quality Australian products.

Australia has the third largest Exclusive Economic Zone globally, a marine territory larger than its landmass. These waters span multiple ecosystem types and features some of the world’s best ocean energy resources.

This richness provides unparalleled opportunities, but also significant challenges. It is logistically and technologically difficult to monitor such a large ocean expanse. It is also difficult to ensuring the concepts of sustainability and equity that are at the core of the vision of a prosperous blue economy can be delivered as more and more marine industries come on line and climate change reshapes our oceans. Without proper support, knowledge and management, the rich opportunities for growth could place unsustainable pressure on the marine environment and adversely affect coastal communities and existing activities.

CSIRO’s role

To achieve sustainability and equity will mean bringing all forms of knowledge to bear. This includes recognising that the First Peoples of Australia have some of the longest recorded histories of connection to the oceans, respecting and applying that knowledge and bringing it to bear on current conditions.

As industries and ocean uses expand in type and extent, there is much to be done. CSIRO research in this area currently focuses on:

  • Integrated Ocean Management
  • Multiple use management, planning and cumulative effects, including monitoring and data sharing
  • Socioecological systems (connecting natural and human systems)
  • Sustainability aspects in new environments, such as for offshore exploitation, extraction and production activities (e.g. mining, renewable energy generation, aquaculture production)
  • Future Infrastructure (construction through to decommissioning)
  • Social acceptability, trade-offs and equity
  • Governance and policy considerations (efficient and robust regulation and approval processes)
  • Alternative livelihoods
  • Rich partnerships with First Peoples, supporting their blue economy activities and the development of Cultural Licence to Operate (CLO), trade-offs and equity

Short (7m) Introduction to the project (2020-2022)

Other Resources

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The blue economy is worth an estimated US$1.5 trillion globally and over $80 billion per annum in Australia.

Read the November 2020 ECOS story telling how Australia’s blue economy is set to boost the coronavirus recovery, and watch below how CSIRO is providing scientific knowledge critical for supporting investment in sustainable aquaculture, offshore renewables and ecosystem restoration.

And for anyone still wondering what we do, please enjoy a short video clip describing our focus.

Key Contact

Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Environment