The Aboriginal peoples of south-eastern Australia have long inhabited coastal and marine environments. The peoples of the area that is modern-day Victoria have, with some of humanity’s most enduring socio-cultural structures, lived here for many, many thousands of years. The cultural, social and spiritual meaning of Sea Country to Aboriginal Victorians is demonstrated in historical and contemporary accounts of Aboriginal dreaming stories.

Today, our inshore marine areas are well known and loved by millions of Victorians and visitors, with environments as diverse as the many sheltered bays and inlets to the Twelve Apostles in western Victoria and the wilderness coast of far east Gippsland. Both inshore and offshore marine areas also host the activities of several important sectors such as fisheries, ports and shipping, and energy.

VEAC was requested to undertake the Assessment of the Values of Victoria’s Marine Environment in March 2018 to inform and support the development of Victoria’s marine and coastal policy and strategy including the proposed marine spatial planning framework.

A major focus of the assessment was identification of environmental, economic, social and cultural values and current and likely future threats to those values. The term ‘values’ is understood in different ways, and VEAC has explored various concepts of ‘value’ from biophysical attributes of the environment to the values held by people about the environment and natural resources, and the value of natural resources to the economy. Threats to values have been organised thematically into six categories: climate change, physical change, biological change, catchment processes, pollution and community or industry demand.

This report of the assessment together with a companion atlas is based on evidence from data and analysis, supported by expert judgement and review. It provides a basis from which more detailed descriptions can be made at different scales and for different purposes.

This assessment has shown us that there is much that we know about the marine environment and more that we still need to know to allow us to manage it for generations to come. There are parts of these complex environments that are under pressure from the impacts of climate change which, along with population growth and increased commitments for stewardship, drive a need for improved knowledge and understanding.

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