feeding at Nelson Bay, NSW
Bream feeding at Nelson Bay, NSW © Brendon Shaw


Mapping Ocean Wealth

  • Tony Jupp
    Associate Director of Communications
    Email: tjupp@tnc.org

After three years of research, a team of leading marine experts, led by The Nature Conservancy and Deakin University, release today a watershed report describing and mapping the economic value provided, free-of-charge, by the coastal wetlands of south-eastern Australia.

“Our research reveals for the first time the often underappreciated economic value provided by our coastal wetlands,” said Dr Paul Carnell, marine scientist at Deakin University and lead-author of the report. “For example, we’ve calculated that wetlands in places such as Port Phillip Bay and Western Port can collectively contribute at least $562 million in tangible goods and services to the community. This includes food, recreation and shoreline protection. This all helps to support livelihoods and grow the blue economy.”   

“Business can do a great deal to protect our marine ecosystems by adopting more sustainable practices -- but the financial system has an important role to play too,” added Hamish Kelly, HSBC Australia’s Head of Global Banking. “This new research establishes a strong case for the use of instruments such as ‘blue bonds’ to mitigate against the economic loss that is likely if we continue to ignore the health of these important areas.”

The Mapping Ocean Wealth Australia report, released today and available from our website, found that ecosystems that fringe our coastlines – saltmarshes, mangrove forests and seagrass meadows – provide a bounty of benefits for people and nature. “It’s always been easy to quantify the value of built infrastructure like roads and bridges. Now, for the first time, we can also ascribe value to natural infrastructure provided by coastal wetlands,” said Dr Chris Gillies, Oceans Program Lead at The Nature Conservancy.

Taking just one example in south-eastern Australia, coastal wetlands contribute $35.5 million per year to nearshore commercial fisheries. Seagrass meadows alone produce on average 207kg more fish per hectare compared to areas without seagrass. With an estimated 72,000 hectares of seagrass in south-eastern Australia, this adds up to 14 million tonnes more fish produced by seagrass each year.

“We hope planning and financial professionals from state and local government agencies will use the report to make more accurate and informed management and investment decisions. Just like typical public infrastructure, the true financial benefits provided by nature can now be accurately costed and included in investment decision-making. The protection and restoration of coastal ecosystems has real and measurable public benefits to communities and dependant coastal marine industries such as recreational and commercial fisheries, and ecotourism,” concluded Dr Gillies.  

About Mapping Ocean Wealth

The Australian Mapping Ocean Wealth project represents three years of marine ecosystem service research, spatial mapping and communication for coastal wetlands in south-eastern Australia by several of Australia’s leading marine science and conservation institutions. The Australian project is funded and supported by The Nature Conservancy, Deakin University, The Thomas Foundation, HSBC Australia, The Ian Potter Foundation, Victorian Government, NSW Government and the Australian Research Council. Find out more by visiting http://maps.oceanwealth.org/

       Key findings in the report


    Coastal wetlands power Australia’s fisheries. These wetlands provide food and habitat essential for important fish, supporting coastal livelihoods and businesses.

  • Coastal wetlands in south-eastern Australia contribute $35.5 million per year to nearshore commercial fisheries.
  • Coastal wetlands provide 61% of the food that sustains and grows fish species targeted by commercial and recreational fishers.
  • Seagrasses in south-eastern Australia produce on average 207kg more fish per hectare compared to areas without seagrass. With an estimated 72,000 hectares of seagrass in south-eastern Australia, this equals an estimated average of 14 million tonnes more fish produced by seagrass each year.

    South-eastern Australia’s coastal wetlands are a wonderland for people to enjoy, relax and unwind.


  • Seagrasses in Melbourne’s two most popular coastal bays - Port Phillip and Western Port – provide a non-market recreational benefit estimated at $33.1 million pa.
  • Mangroves and saltmarshes provide recreational values for birdwatchers at an average of $158 per visit in non-market value (time and travel).

    Coastal wetlands are Australia’s most efficient carbon sink, storing carbon for millennia and providing natural climate solutions to tackle climate change.

  • Carbon sequestration in coastal wetlands in Victoria and New South Wales store 36,000 tonnes of CO2 pa – equivalent to removing 7,826 cars from our roads.
  • Allowing coastal wetlands to naturally retreat with sea-level rise in Victoria could sequester 1.6 million tonnes of carbon by 2050 with a value of $65 million.

    Mangroves, saltmarsh and seagrasses have stood guard over Australia’s coastlines for millennia. They hold shorelines in place reducing erosion and wave damage, helping to preserve valuable shoreline assets.

  • Coastal wetlands reduce wave energy by 37-71%, protecting property across south-eastern Australia to the value of $2.7 billion.
  • Coastal wetlands protect 1.02 million people from relocation and could lower damages by 11.3%, potentially saving the economy $3.6 billion by 2090.

    The use of accounting principles to measure and quantify ecosystem services can improve the way we understand the benefits, and monitor and invest in coastal wetlands into the future.

  • Combined economic values for five services (carbon sequestration, commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, recreational fishing and birdwatching) in Port Phillip and Western Port are worth $36.5 million per year, with carbon stocks and coastal protection valued at $526 million.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organisation dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we focus on getting things done efficiently and with the greatest positive impact for conservation. We’re a trusted organisation working in more than 70 countries and territories around the world on innovative solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. To learn more about The Nature Conservancy in Australia, follow us on Facebook.