Marine Resources & Industries Program (MRI)

–  Research Director, Dr. Alistair Hobday


To provide scientific knowledge and tools to support sustainable development of Australia’s marine resources, including monitoring and mitigation of environmental impacts and conservation of marine biodiversity.

Program objectives include:

  • Delivering science to improve our understanding of marine socioecological systems.
  • Providing the best possible, unbiased advice on offshore developments, ecosystem-based fisheries management, marine bioregional planning, and the conservation of Australia’s marine biodiversity.
  • Supporting increased efficiency and sustainability of Australia’s marine industries (e.g. fisheries, oil and gas, tourism, shipping and marine safety) and enhanced food security for Australia and our neighbours.
  • Providing science to underpin and support cross-sectoral approaches to marine management.

Core capabilities include:

  • Quantitative benthic and pelagic ecology including stock assessment, fish biogeography and spatial dynamics for ecosystem characterisation.
  • Application and development of observational technologies, including genomics, optical-acoustic systems and underwater visual systems.
  • Marine resource economics, including statistical and risk-based approaches for resource management.
  • The development and application of appropriate modelling tools to support the tactical and strategic decisions to be made by our clients for the appropriate management of our marine ecosystems.  Our spectrum of modelling tools ranges from simple to highly complex with the latter including a ‘whole of system’ model that incorporates coupled biophysical and socioeconomic components.

Portfolios of Research

Our research activity and reputation is in seven main areas, termed portfolios. These portfolios recognise the external need for long-term understanding of our science delivery, through development of new project ideas, to assist uptake of science, and provide networking and policy guidance.  Each portfolio is represented by a senior scientist who contributes to the strategic development of each portfolio, and with colleagues, to the set of portfolios.

MRI Portfolio schematic

A description of our research suitable for the general public is available here at:   Marine Resources and Industries

Fisheries – Domestic  >

Portfolio Lead:  Rich Little

Domestic fisheries are typically managed by a single nation, and include commercial, recreational and indigenous harvesting. MRI is a research provider for Australian domestic fisheries, including those managed by Federal and State agencies. MRI has also conducted domestic fisheries research in other countries such as Chile and Indonesia. The Australian Government approach to fisheries management is based on science with the objective of maintaining fish stocks at ecologically sustainable levels, and maximising the net economic returns to the Australian community.  Legislation and policy also requires management to consider the impact of fishing activities on non-target species and the long-term sustainability of the marine environment, as well as explicit consideration of recreational and indigenous fishing sectors.

Fisheries – International  >

Portfolio Lead:  Campbell Davies

The international fisheries portfolio focuses on fisheries that operate on the high seas and/or cross national jurisdictions and are subject to international management arrangements (e.g. Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, RFMOs). The main focus is international fisheries that have Australian components and target highly migratory species, such as tuna, billfish and sharks. It also includes demersal fisheries for toothfish, such as the Macquarie Island fishery. The fisheries supported by these stocks are nationally important (southern bluefin tuna (SBT) and toothfish) and globally significant (tropical tuna in the Pacific and Indian Oceans).

Marine Pollution  >

Portfolio Lead:  Denise Hardesty

This portfolio addresses the distribution and intensity of contaminants released by many human activities, the pressures these cause on the environment, the impacts they have on marine species, communities, economies and human health and well-being, and the potential mitigation of these impacts.  The portfolio is foundational to supporting sustainability in a rapidly growing and diversifying national and international Blue Economy and it spans domestic and international waters, taxa, habitats and biota.  It includes understanding the distribution, intensity and impacts from domestic and international activities such as shipping, including the discharge of waste, sound propagation and direct impacts through ship strike incidents, hydrocarbons and oil & gas (including produced formation water), as well as anthropogenic waste from land and sea-based activities, including plastics and nutrient run-off from aquaculture.

Biodiversity Management & Conservation  >

Portfolio Lead:  Piers Dunstan

Marine biodiversity constitutes the assets that underpin many of the ecosystem services that communities and industry rely on. However, marine biodiversity is being unsustainably impacted by many different pressures from different sectors that are singly and together reducing the goods and services that people derive from healthy marine ecosystems.

Marine Monitoring & Surveillance  >

Portfolio Lead:  Chris Wilcox

Sustainability is both a mandated objective of modern fishery regulators and an expectation of our communities. Management agencies use monitoring and surveillance to monitor legal and illegal fishing activities to ensure sustainability and fairness.

Integrated Ocean Stewardship  >

Portfolio Lead:  Beth Fulton

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 $40 billion per annum in Australia. This research area also includes Ocean Futures and scenario planning, cumulative impacts, and integrated ocean management.


Climate Impacts & Adaptation  >

Portfolio Lead: Eva Plaganyi

Australia’s oceans are rapidly changing as the climate becomes warmer and more variable.
The effects of past and present human activities have committed the world to at least a further 0.5-1 oC of average warming, with further changes across all ocean processes expected.  Over the next twenty years Australia’s marine ecosystems are expected to exhibit some of the largest climate-driven changes in the Southern Hemisphere.  These changes will extend from the ecosystems to the local communities and seafood businesses.  Navigating a sustainable path forward requires close collaboration between science, industry, policy makers and communities. This begins with making sure information on the implications and impacts of climate change for Australian marine systems is readily accessible, fit for purpose and easily interpretable and usable. Such access will allow for all concerned to plan their operations, to avoid or mitigate negative impacts, and to make the most of new opportunities that arise.


Digital Capability  >

Portfolio Lead:  Bec Gorton

Staff who make up the Digital Capability within O&A are involved in almost all areas of O&A science. They play a key role in enabling and delivering O&A science, with a focus on delivery of science impact, and addressing internal and external client needs.

All Research Pages

A listing of major “research” pages associated with MRI research. This is an alternative way to locate information on a research area, rather than looking through the portfolio pages.