Addressing climate-driven changes in marine systems requires integration of ecology, conservation and social science

Gretta T Pecl 1,2

1 Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Tasmania, Australia.  E-mail:

2Centre for Marine Socioecology, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


Climate change is driving a pervasive global redistribution of the planet’s species, with manifest implications from genes to ecosystems across multiple temporal and spatial scales. Species redistribution defies conservation paradigms that focus on restoring systems to a baseline and challenges management strategies, which are often static and based on human-dictated boundaries drawn in the past. Likewise, changes in distribution of marine resources create difficulties, particularly when species cross jurisdictional boundaries and where historical catch rates and assessment processes may no longer be appropriate. Moreover, we are still a long way from understanding the suite of mechanisms and processes underlying the high variation in rate and magnitude of shifts. Building on that uncertainty, we have even less understanding of how species redistribution will drive changes in ecological communities and further complicate aspirations of ecosystem-based management. Climate-driven species redistribution therefore presents intriguing ecological challenges to unravel, as well as fundamental philosophical questions and urgent issues related to conservation, food security, Indigenous and local livelihoods, and many other aspects of human well-being. This presentation will highlight some of the key questions for climate-driven species redistribution in marine systems in the context of ecology, conservation, natural resource management and social science. Understanding range shifts from ecological, physiological, genetic and biogeographical perspectives is essential for informing and designing conservation and natural resource management strategies for a changing future. However, for species redistribution research to support development of relevant adaptive strategies and policy decisions adequately, studies need to take an interdisciplinary approach and must recognise and value stakeholders.


Gretta Pecl is a Professor of marine ecology at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), and the incoming Director of the Centre for Marine Socioecology (CMS), both based in Tasmania. She has broad interdisciplinary research interests and a passion for science engagement and communication with the public. Much of her current research centres around understanding climate change impacts in marine systems, and how our marine fisheries and aquaculture industries and coastal communities may best adapt to these changes. Gretta’s research has a particular focus on detecting and understanding the variation in rate and magnitude of climate-driven species redistribution. She developed and leads the very successful National citizen science project Redmap Australia, the Range Extension Database and mapping project (, which invites fishers and divers around the coastline to help monitor changes in species distributions in Australian seas. Candidate or ‘model’ range-shifting species for her experimental work are identified through the out-of-range species observations reported to Redmap, and the citizen science program is then in turn used to disseminate results of this research and other marine climate change projects to the general community. She was the instigator and co-convenor of the inaugural ‘Species on the Move’ conference held in Hobart in 2016 (, and is also currently working with international colleagues on a Global Network of Marine Hotspots to facilitate learning and communication among the world’s most rapidly warming ocean regions. Gretta is an Australian Research Council ‘Future Fellow’ and the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries.

Our plastics, our coastlines, our problems, our solutions

Britta Denise Hardesty1

CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere1


Marine debris or is a globally recognised environmental issue of increasing concern. Marine ecosystems worldwide are affected by human-made refuse, much of which is plastic. This anthropogenic waste comes from both land and sea-based sources and can travel immense distances. It can pose a navigation hazard, smother coral reefs, transport invasive species and negatively affect tourism. It also injures and kills wildlife, has the potential to transport chemical contaminants, and may pose a threat to human health. I will talk about plastics in society, some of the challenges posed and the opportunities provided by plastics. I will also discuss the effectiveness of incentives in reducing plastic inputs to the marine environment, various actions and activities that reduce coastal litter, the impacts on wildlife, and an integrated approach to addressing this modern ‘wicked problem’.

Coasts, capital and climate change: Harnessing private investment for coastal adaptation and resilience

Zsuzsa Banhalmi-Zakar1

College of Science and Engineering,James Cook University


Helping coastal communities adapt to the impacts of climate change is a key challenge in Australia and many countries overseas. Contrary to many other nations, coastal protection and management is not a federal responsibility in Australia; rather it is a mix of state and local obligations. Similarly, adaptation to climate change is also devolved, primarily to local governments. Climate change represents increased risks to coastal communities, as well as the natural and built environment. The problem with the current arrangement of responsibilities is that protecting coastal assets can be a costly exercise that is often beyond the capacity of local governments budgets. The norm is to seek funding from State government, or to self-funding activities. However, inevitably these sources of funding will not be sufficient, because the scale of investment needed to protect coastal assets is estimated to reach over $226 billion, while the cost of damages from natural disaster alone is forecasted to escalate to more than $33 billion by 2050 (Steffen et al 2017; Deloitte Access Economics 2016). It appears logical to look to the private sector to fill the adaptation finance gap, which possesses the necessary scale of capital. But are adaptation and climate resilient projects investable assets? Who would finance such projects and how? Although there are no simple answers, recent studies offer guidance on what it would take to harness private sector investment for coastal adaptation and resilience.


Deloitte Access Economics. (2016). The economic cost of the social impact of natural disasters. Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Communities. Available online at [].

Steffen, W., Hunter, J., Hughes, L. (2017). Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding. Climate Council. Available online at [].

Managing the Derwent Estuary: 20 years on – success factors, lessons learned and future challenges

Ms Christine Coughanowr1

1CEO, Derwent Estuary Program


The Derwent estuary lies at the heart of the Hobart metropolitan area and is home to 40% of Tasmania’s population, as well as a major centre for commerce, recreation and tourism. The estuary has a long-standing history of heavy metal pollution – with some of the highest reported levels of zinc, mercury and lead in the world. In recent years, there has been significant investment to reduce metal inputs, with considerable success. However, the legacy pollution will require continued investment and careful management for many years to come. More recently, the estuary has shown increasing signs of nutrient stress, including nuisance algal blooms, seagrass loss and persistent low oxygen levels in some areas. Previous research has shown a strong link between nutrient loading, low oxygen and release of heavy metals from sediments. Therefore, a key element of our long-term management strategy is to manage and reduce both heavy metals and nutrients in tandem.

Nonetheless, the Derwent is a beautiful, vibrant waterway with a wide diversity of habitats and species. As the condition of the estuary improves there has been a parallel increase in its use for swimming, boating, fishing and walking.

The Derwent Estuary Program (DEP) is a partnership between government, business, scientists and the community to restore and protect our waterway. Established in 1999, the partnership has been nationally recognised for excellence in reducing water pollution, protecting nature, monitoring river health and promoting greater use and enjoyment of the Derwent. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the current state of the Derwent, how our partnership has evolved over time, and review some of the key challenges going forward.


Christine Coughanowr has been obsessed with the Derwent estuary since she first glimpsed it upon her arrival in Tasmania in 1993.  She has investigated and reported on water quality issues affecting the estuary and its catchment for 25 years, and established the Derwent Estuary Program (DEP) 20 years ago in collaboration with a dedicated team of colleagues and program partners. In 2010, the DEP won Australia’s coveted National Riverprize as a recognised leader in science-based river management.

Previously, Christine worked for UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in Paris and as a water resources management consultant in the United States and France. In 2001, she received a Churchill fellowship to visit estuary management programs in Canada, the U.S. and U.K. She holds a Batchelor of Science degree in geology from Duke University and a Masters of Science degree in estuarine geology from the University of Delaware (USA).

Conflict to Collaboration: New Zealand’s coastal management journey

Raewyn Peart1

1Policy Director, Environmental Defence Society, Auckland, New Zealand


New Zealand is a coastal nation with around 600 islands and 19,000 kilometres of coastline. Over the past 800 years, humans have fundamentally transformed the coastal environment. Since European settlement during the mid to late 1800s, most of the coast has been privatised and much has been developed into pastural agriculture and urban settlements. The 1950s and 1990s saw coastal development booms where New Zealanders built large numbers of holiday homes near the sea. More recently, the burgeoning national population is placing greater pressures on the coast through the rapid expansion of urban centres, and climate change impacts are putting many coastal properties at risk.

New Zealand’s response to these coastal management challenges has evolved considerably over the past 50 years. Initial responses focused on establishing reserve networks on land and later in the sea. Statutory recognition of the importance of protecting ‘natural character’ on the coast, when determining development proposals, was provided during the 1970s. The 1990s saw a stronger emphasis placed on ecological values, but coupled with the decentralisation of coastal management to local councils, this resulted in poor outcomes in many coastal areas. The 2000s has been a more promising period of experimentation and innovation in New Zealand’s coastal management journey. New approaches which have been applied include using collaborative planning processes, establishing co-governance bodies with iwi (Māori tribes), undertaking regional marine spatial planning and creaing legal personhood for nature. The recent election of a reformist centre-left government will likely create further opportunities for positive change.


As Policy Director, Raewyn currently heads EDS’s environmental policy think-tank group. She has over 20 years professional experience in environmental law and policy having worked as a resource management lawyer and policy adviser to business, government and the not-for-profit sector.

For more than D decade, Raewyn’s work has focused on landscape protection, coastal development and marine management in New Zealand. She has written numerous papers, research reports and guidance material on these issues. Raewyn has published major books on coastal development (Castles in the Sand: What’s Happening to the New Zealand Coast?), marine mammal protection (Dolphins of Aotearoa: Living with Dolphins in New Zealand – which was shortlisted for the New Zealand Royal Society Science Book Prizeand environmental change in the Hauraki Gulf marine area (The Story of the Hauraki Gulf – a coffee table-sized book now on its 3rd print run). She has been a leader in promoting the introduction of marine spatial planning to New Zealand and was a member of the collaborative Stakeholder Working Group which successfully prepared the first marine spatial plan in New Zealand for the Hauraki Gulf.

Raewyn was co-winner of the 2013 Resource Management Law Association Publications Award (for Caring for Our Coast: An EDS Guide to Managing Coastal Development), and recipient of the 2016 Holdaway Award for leadership in and around the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and the 2017 Wyland Foundation Dive New Zealand Magazine Recognition Award. She is a keen sailor, snorkeller, snowboarder and photographer.

Harmful Algal Blooms in Australian Coastal Waters: Surprises from Climate Change?

Professor Gustaaf Hallegraeff1

1Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart


Microscopic plankton algae provide critical services to human society by generating through photosynthesis every second breath of oxygen we inhale. They also form the basis of all food chains leading to edible fish. Sometimes -so-called- harmful algal blooms can cause severe economic losses by discoloring the water and damaging tourism, killing fish through oxygen depletion, damaging or clogging of gills, but more seriously by contaminating seafood with potent neurotoxins. Algal blooms may also pose unexpected problems for desalination plants.

While microalgal blooms in a strict sense are completely natural phenomena, since the 1980s their impacts on Australian public health, tourism, and fisheries have increased in frequency, intensity and geographic distribution. To a major extent this reflects increased scientific awareness. In other cases, algal bloom problems reflect increased utilisation of coastal waters for aquaculture and fisheries. Eutrophication has rarely been rarely invoked as a causative factor. Other harmful species have been newly introduced via ship ballast water discharge or have exhibited significant range expansions in relationship to climate change.

Environmental agencies and aquaculture industries worldwide are increasingly forced to invest in improved technologies for monitoring for an increasing number of harmful algal species in water samples and increasing complexity of algal toxins in seafood products. Climate change is calling for increased vigilance in seafood safety.


Gustaaf Hallegraeff is a Professor at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies of the University of Tasmania in Australia. He has supervised 40 PhD students and worked on a wide range of Harmful Algal Bloom issues from shellfish toxins, climate change, ship’s ballast water to fish-killing algae. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and winner of the 2004 Eureka Prize for Environmental Research and 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae.


About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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