We are undertaking a review of the Biologically Important Areas of regionally significant marine species, now referred to as Biologically Important Areas for protected marine species (BIAs).
The BIA review provides opportunities for:
- Clarification and strengthening of the biologically important behaviour categories and designation process and update of BIA maps.
- Inclusion of contemporary behavioural data, Indigenous ecological knowledge, and areas not already previously included such as the sub-Antarctic, Antarctic, Christmas, and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
- Government agencies, non-government and Indigenous organisations, industry, and researchers to submit data to inform BIAs.
- Increased awareness of the BIAs as decision-support tools for conservation planning and regulatory decision-making in the marine environment.
We have completed an update of the BIA designation process, i.e., the process for creating BIAs. We are progressing updates to the BIA geospatial data for cetaceans (whales and dolphins), marine turtles, Australian sea lions, sharks, and dugongs using the new process. Updates for other taxa including seabirds will follow. Please refer to this page for the latest information on updates to the geospatial data for individual species.
Update of the BIA geospatial data for the southern right whale has been completed. The National Conservation Values Atlas (NCVA) provides an interactive platform for displaying and querying all BIA data. The updated southern right whale BIA maps can be found on the NCVA. Shapefiles are also available for download from Find Environmental Data.
If you need further information on the review, please contact BIAReview@dcceew.gov.au.
What are Biologically Important Areas for Protected Marine Species?
BIAs are areas and times used by protected marine species for carrying out critical life functions, such as reproduction, feeding, migration or resting.
BIAs are designated for marine species protected under the EPBC Act. Protected marine species include species listed nationally as marine, threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Conservation Dependent), migratory, and all cetaceans.
BIAs are located anywhere within the Australian marine environment including state, Commonwealth, and adjacent waters. They can also be designated over terrestrial areas used for biologically important behaviours, for example, nesting habitats for marine turtles and seabirds which are found on land.
- Designed to inform decision making about actions which may impact protected marine species.
- Described in conservation plans for protected marine species including statutory recovery plans, wildlife conservation plans, and conservation advice documents.
BIAs may assist with:
- Defining ‘habitat critical to the survival of the species’ required in recovery plans made under the EPBC Act.
Identifying information gaps and prioritising future research.
BIA Species tables
BIA mapping has been undertaken for over 70 species protected under the EPBC Act.
The National Conservation Values Atlas (NCVA) provides an interactive platform for displaying and querying BIAs.
The following caveats should be considered when using BIAs:
- BIAs do not represent full species range. BIAs are different to distribution maps found in the Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database. BIAs sit within the SPRAT distribution maps, providing spatial information about species behaviour.
- BIAs are not identified for all protected species or all areas of the marine environment. Areas without BIAs may support species and biologically important behaviours.
BIAs are not formally protected areas, although BIAs may be designated within protected areas, parks, reserves, or sanctuaries. BIAs may be used to inform the designation of these areas.
Who manages BIAs?
We administer the BIA designation process. Once BIAs have been designated, we publish and maintain the geospatial data and the BIA maps.
The Protocol for the Designation of Biologically Important Areas for Protected Marine Species (the BIA Protocol) provides guidance on the process for designating BIAs for protected marine species.
The BIA Protocol details:
- eligible species
- eligible areas
- BIA categories and definitions
- BIA designation process
- BIA data standards
- guidelines for delineation of BIAs.
The BIA Protocol is primarily intended to guide:
- Nomination of BIA Areas of Interest (AOI).
- AOI assessments.
- Final determination and formal designation of BIAs.
How are BIAs designated?
The designation of BIAs is carried out in three stages: (1) nomination, (2) assessment, and (3) determination.
- BIA Areas of Interest (AOIs) submitted to Department
- AOIs compiled & supporting information quality rated
- Subject Matter Expert (SME) assessment panel convened
- Species & behaviour-specific assessment thresholds and/or delineation guidelines determined
- AOIs assessed by SME panel
- Candidate BIAs (cBIAs) recommended to Department for determination
- cBIAs reviewed by the Department
- Third party review applied where needed
- Determined BIAs designated
The designation process is administered by the department. A feature of the BIA designation process is the involvement of independent subject matter experts (SMEs).
BIAs use reliable behavioural data including Indigenous ecological knowledge. Data used in BIAs is rated according to its nature and quality. Data thresholds are used to filter the data to ensure that the most important areas are captured.
An Assessment Narrative is published for each BIA designated using the Protocol for the Designation of Biologically Important Areas for Protected Marine Species.
Protocol for the Designation of Biologically Important Areas for Protected Marine Species (PDF - 1 MB)
Protocol for the Designation of Biologically Important Areas for Protected Marine Species (DOCX - 2 MB)
Assessment narratives for each BIA include:
- Data quality ratings assigned by the department.
- Quantitative thresholds and delineation rules and supporting evidence.
- SME Assessment panel recommendations.
- Department decisions.
Updating and creating new BIAs
We are updating existing BIAs to align them under the new designation framework. We prioritise updates when:
- New scientific evidence is available.
- Update or designation of new BIAs will significantly improve conservation planning and regulatory decision-making.
- The species is subject to increasing anthropogenic pressures in the marine environment.
- The species is undergoing a listing assessment.
- The species’ conservation plan is undergoing a review, or a new plan is being developed.
Nominations for Areas of Interest (AOI)
You can submit a nomination for AOIs using the Area of Interest nomination template.
Anyone with knowledge of the species and its relevant biologically important behaviours can submit an AOI. AOIs may be submitted at any time. AOIs may also be sought by us.
You can also tell us about the availability of new information. This may trigger a review or new designation. Contact BIAReview@dcceew.gov.au.
The BIAs are agile decision-support tools requiring regular review and update. We aim to ensure that that BIA reviews are conducted at least every 5 years where new relevant data is available.