Guiding Principles for Marine and Coastal Management

One of the highlights of the recent C2C conference in Hobart was the discussion and agreement on 10 guiding principles for marine and coastal management. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the organisers and especially Mark Rodrigue for bringing to the conference ideas that came out of C2C in Melbourne in 2016. A workshop was held during the conference where Mark outlined what had been achieved in Melbourne and opened up the discussion for further input. Those who attended the workshop were able to comment on the 10 principles of 2016. These comments were reviewed by a team led by Mark and presented at the plenary session of the 2018 conference for endorsement. They were unanimously supported by delegates and Chris Rees as Chair of the session made the commitment to pass them on to the ACS as the national body. This has been done and on the 2 May the ACS Executive endorsed the principles on the understanding that they constitute a living document and will be reviewed at the next C2C in Cairns in 2020.

Two points immediately emerge from the process of developing these principles. The first relates to continuity. Over the years that C2C has been in operation there have been few attempts to offer delegates, and the broader coast and marine community, opportunities to embrace those issues that we all can aspire to. While the formation of ACS commencing in Hobart in 2004 may be seen as an example of an action that has offered the community a means to communicate, the efforts of those in 2016 to develop a set of substantive principles is another step. That the principles are a living document subject to review at the next C2C provides delegates at the next conference a mechanism to test the use and meaning of the principles.

The second point relates to the role of ACS. As noted by Chris in his closing address to delegates in Hobart, the principles are likely to evolve over time as experience grows in their application to different issues. ACS as the force behind C2C has the responsibility to collate that experience and bring information to each successive C2C on how they can be best modified if that is required. We are very fortunate to have a team within ACS at state and national levels who can provide that input and thus encourage future delegates to conferences to offer their thoughts.

The 10 principles are intentionally broad ranging. But as noted in the Preamble “They provide guideposts for marine and coastal practitioners in the development of comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable responses to the challenges of managing Australia’s coasts and seas, and offer points of reflection in the review of policies, plans and programs”. In this way they can offer all involved in coast and marine management a set of values relevant to protecting and enhancing those intrinsic values that must be sustained now and into the future. The fact that coastal and marine areas are often places of social conflict (contested spaces) requires managers to have a value framework from which they can operate. At times these values and one or more of the principles will be challenged. It is hoped that at such times the principles can help provide a basis for rational deliberation of possible adverse impacts to not just environmental systems, but also to social and economic wellbeing.

I am delighted that C2C 2018 has produced this revised set of 10 principles. ACS welcomes comments and suggestions and examples of experience in their application.

Bruce Thom

Words by Prof Bruce Thom. Please respect the author’s thoughts and reference appropriately: (c) ACS, 2018, posted 16 May 2018, for correspondence about this blog post please email