The Commonwealth and Queensland governments have committed to protect marine species and habitat through a variety of legislation, conventions and international agreements. Relevant legislation, national strategies, and legally binding agreements that influence how Moreton Bay Marine Park is managed are summarised below.
In Queensland, the main legislation regulating marine park management, planning and declaration is the Marine Parks Act 2004, Marine Parks Regulation 2017 (the Regulation) and the Marine Parks (Declaration) Regulation 2006 (Declaration Regulation). The Act and Regulations apply to all State marine parks. The aim of the Act is 'to provide for conservation of the marine environment'. The Regulation provides for the overall management and use of marine parks, while the Declaration Regulation details the boundaries of Queensland's marine parks. Other State legislation and policies which have some relevance to Moreton Bay Marine Park include:
- Fisheries Act 1994 which declares Fish Habitat Areas and manages use, development and protection of state fisheries resources, fish habitats and management of aquaculture activities
- Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act). The objective of the EP Act is to protect Queensland's environment while allowing ecologically sustainable development
- Transport legislation, including the Transport Operations (Marine Pollution) Act 1995 and Transport Operations (Marine Safety) Act 2008, which protects Queensland's marine and coastal environment by minimising discharges of ship-sourced pollutants into coastal waters
- Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995 provides for the protection, conservation, rehabilitation and management of coastal resources and values
- Queensland State Planning Policy protects matters of state interest in land use planning and development. Moreton Bay Marine Park’s marine national park and conservation park zones are matters of state environmental significance under the policy.
Australia's governments have agreed to protect marine environments through a national system of marine protected areas—the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA). The main objective of the NRSMPA is to protect Australia's unique marine values by creating a system of protected areas which represent a variety of marine ecosystems. The Australian Inter-government Agreement on the Environment (1992) commits each state and territory to meet the aims of the NRSMPA.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) aims to protect the environment, in particular to matters of National Environmental Significance such as: Ramsar wetlands; listed threatened species and ecological communities; and listed migratory species. It provides for the conservation and protection of threatened species and habitats by regulating actions that are likely to impact on the environment.
The Queensland Government also has regard for national strategies such as:
- the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development that sets out the framework for co-operative decision-making in government and the promotion of ecologically sustainable development throughout Australia
- the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biodiversity that aims to bridge the gap between current activities and the effective identification, conservation and management of Australia's biological diversity. The goal of the strategy is 'to protect biological diversity and maintain ecological processes and systems '.
The NRSMPA also helps Australia meet its responsibilities and obligations under international agreements such as:
- the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity aims to conserve biological diversity at all levels and share in the benefits of genetic resources fairly
- the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (the Bonn Convention), an international treaty that aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian species over the whole of their migratory range
- the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention) aims to conserve significant wetlands and waterfowl by establishing nature reserves on wetlands. The importance of Moreton Bay's wetlands to migratory shorebirds has led to it being recognised internationally as a Ramsar site
- the Convention on Conservation of Nature in the South Pacific aims to create protected areas and protect endangered species.
At the regional level the Marine Parks (Moreton Bay) Zoning Plan 2019 (the zoning plan) provides the framework for the management of the Moreton Bay Marine Park. The purpose of the zoning plan is to conserve the marine environment while providing for its wise use, enjoyment and appreciation into the future.
There are currently four types of zones that offer various levels of protection:
- marine national park zones (green zones) are 'look but don't take' areas of high conservation. Anyone can enter and undertake activities such as boating, snorkelling and sailing. All forms of take (fishing, collecting or extracting) are prohibited
- conservation park zones (yellow zones) allow a range of recreational and commercial uses. Limited fishing and crabbing can occur but activities that might harm or interfere with an area’s habitat and wildlife are prohibited
- habitat protection zones (dark blue zones) protect sensitive habitats by keeping them free from potentially damaging activities. No trawling can occur in this zone
- general use zones (light blue zones) provide for conservation while allowing a range of activities to occur, including trawling.
The current zoning plan was developed under the Marine Parks Act 2004. The Act includes provisions about the establishment of zones, designated areas and highly protected areas within marine parks; recognition of the cultural, economic, environmental and social relationships between marine protected areas; and the application of the precautionary principle (which means if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation).