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Appendix B1 - Matter-specific Standard for Commonwealth Marine Environment

Recommended National Environmental Standards

Appendix B to the Final Report sets out in detail 4 recommended National Environmental Standards that were developed by the Review following consultation with science, Indigenous, environmental and business stakeholders and with input from technical experts.

The Commonwealth marine area is any part of the sea, including the waters, seabed, and airspace, within Australia's exclusive economic zone and/or over the continental shelf of Australia, that is not state or Northern Territory waters. The Commonwealth marine area stretches from 3 up to 200 nautical miles from the coast. The Commonwealth marine area includes most of Australia’s oceans. The EPBC Act protects ‘the environment’ of the Commonwealth marine area.



Environmental Outcome

The environment of Commonwealth marine areas is protected and sustainably managed.

National Standard

The protection of the Commonwealth marine environment is supported by actions, decisions, plans and policies that:

  1. Are not inconsistent with marine park management plans and have regard to relevant marine bioregional plans.
  2. Employ all reasonable steps to avoid and then to mitigate impacts to the environment of the Commonwealth marine area, including by ensuring that actions and decisions, at a minimum:
    1. not result in a known or potential pest species becoming established in the Commonwealth marine area,
    2. not modify, destroy, fragment, isolate or disturb an important or substantial area of habitat such that an adverse impact on marine ecosystem functioning or integrity in a Commonwealth marine area results,
    3. maintain connectivity of population(s) of a marine species or cetacean including its life cycle (for example, breeding, feeding, migration behaviour, life expectancy) and spatial distribution,
    4. maintain and improve air quality or water quality (including temperature) which may adversely impact on biodiversity, ecological integrity, social amenity or human health,
    5. not result in persistent organic chemicals, heavy metals, mainland run-off, pollution or other potentially harmful substances accumulating in the marine environment such that biodiversity, ecological integrity, social amenity or human health may be adversely affected, or
    6. not damage or destroy heritage values of the Commonwealth marine area (including underwater cultural heritage).
  3. Employ achievable and ecologically feasible offsets to counterbalance residual significant impacts, after all reasonable steps to avoid and mitigate impacts are taken.
  4. Ensure the management arrangements of fisheries operating in Commonwealth marine areas are consistent with the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries (as updated from time to time).

Requirements in Commonwealth areas:

  1. Do not kill, injure, take, trade, keep or move a listed marine species, except where a permit is issued.

Further Information

Marine park management plans

Marine Bioregional Plans

Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries (as updated from time to time)

EPBC Act Policy Statement 2.1 - Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales: Industry guidelines

This Standard should be applied in conjunction with the Overarching MNES Standard, relevant matter-specific Standards and other National Environmental Standards.


Commonwealth marine area: defined by section 24 of the EPBC Act.

Marine bioregional plans: section 176 of the EPBC Act provides for the making of bioregional plans. The Minister must have regard to Marine Bioregional Plans in making any decision under the EPBC Act to which the plans are relevant.

Marine park management plans: section 366 of the EPBC Act requires that marine parks must have management plans in place as soon as practicable after being proclaimed. Section 367 requires that management plans must provide for the protection and conservation of the parks.

Offset: measures that may be used once it has been demonstrated that all reasonable steps have been taken to avoid and minimise impacts, that are provided to compensate, repair or replace an impacted value, including changes to the integrity, quality, condition and/or extent of habitat. Offsets must be consistent with the EPBC Act Environmental Offsets Policy (2012, as updated from time to time), or an accredited policy relating to offsets of a state or territory. Offsets must be achievable and ecologically feasible:

  • An offset is achievable where demonstrated scientific knowledge exists on how to restore the habitat with a high confidence of success, and its long-term protection is assured (for example through conservation covenants or conservation agreements), and
  • An offset is ecologically feasible where it can be demonstrated that the species or community can be reliably restored in a timeframe proportionate to effectively address the impact of the action and enough space exists to undertake restoration (not ecologically or tenure constrained).

Permit: a permit required under Part 13 of the EPBC Act.

Population: a population of a species or ecological community means an occurrence of the species or community in a particular area, as defined under section 528 of the EPBC Act.

Additional information

Supplementary navigation and content


    Publish date

    October 2020