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This article examines Australia's implementation of a variety of international conventions dealing with marine conservation. The Conventions selected for case study are the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 1973, the Convention on Wetlands of International importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention) 1971 and the Convention on Biological Diversity 1992.

The legislative and policy response to implement these Conventions at both the Commonwealth and State and Territories levels are examined. The analysis reveals a number of weaknesses in the legislative and policy framework. While the Commonwealth has comprehensive legislation and policy to implement and further develop most of the objectives of the Conventions, the State and Territory response has, in some instances, been piecemeal. A further weakness in the State and Territory legislative approach is that the focus on legislative development has, for the most part, been on land conservation rather than marine conservation.

The artificial jurisdictional division between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories means that marine conservation in Australia is inconsistent because most areas of the environment in need of protection cross the jurisdictional boundaries. The practical effect of this is that some areas in need of protection are covered by a strong legislative framework, while others are not. Particularly problematic is the fact that most marine biodiversity exists in State waters where the implementation of international conservation treaties is limited. Thus jurisdictional limitations reduce the ability of the Commonwealth to incorporate the majority of marine biodiversity into the Commonwealth's protective legislative framework.

The article concludes that a holistic approach to marine conservation is needed to provide effective protection to the marine environment. In order to achieve this there needs to be greater co-operation between all levels of Government to develop both legislation and policy that crosses the jurisdictional divide. There is also need for an ecosystem approach to marine conservation in Australia.

This paper draws the bulk of its material from relevant chapters of a monograph on Australian Implementation of Environmental Treaties that is under preparation by Gregory Rose.
AAP, 1998. Australia warned to act on wetlands, in: The Age, 2.2.98
Bates, B., and Preston, J. 1987. ‘Section 92 and Interstate Trade in Wildlife: A Moral Question’ 4 EPLJ 175.
Johnston, S. 1997. ‘The Convention on Biological Diversity: The Next Phase’ 6.3 Review of European Community and International Law 219, 226.
Kemp, D. Minister for Environment and Heritage, media release 5 June 2002.
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