THE AUSTRALIAN Marine Environment Protection Association (AUSMEPA) is closing its doors after more than 20 years of working to protect Australia’s precious marine environment. 

In a letter announcing the closure, AUSMEPA chairman Captain Warwick Norman, AM and its executive officer Julie Nash said the organisation’s ability to attract sufficient corporate support has been “overwhelmingly challenging”. 

“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has affected AUSMEPA along with many other organisations who rely on corporate giving for survival,” they wrote. 

“The understandable lack of business confidence has had a knock-on effect to AUSMEPA’s corporate memberships and donations and has made finding new members and sponsorship exceedingly difficult.” 

Mr Norman and Ms Nash wrote that as with many not-for-profits, AUSMEPA was run on the “proverbial shoestring, which makes our achievements all the more gratifying”. 

AUSMEPA was launched in 2000 when a declaration of a voluntary commitment to “save the seas” was signed by several people representing a wide range of shipping industry, government and non-governmental organisations that were committed to protecting Australia’s marine environment. 

AUSMEPA’s declaration was based on that of HELMEPA, the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association, founded voluntarily by Greek seafarers and shipowners in Piraeus on 4 June 1982. HELMEPA’s aim is to inform, educate and mobilise all in Greek shipping “from shipowner to the last seafarer” towards spreading a pollution prevention and safety spirit throughout the industry. 

Over the years, AUSMEPA was heavily involved in education. The organisation developed and delivered programs for primary and secondary students. These programs, which meet Australian curriculum requirements, provide teachers and students with extensive research materials on a range of topics related to protecting the marine environment. 

Other recent achievements include: 

  • Junior Ranger Guidebook to assist Indigenous Rangers work with local schools and communities. 
  • Working with students in the Torres Straight to publish a book on boating safety. 
  • Working with Australian high school Engineering students to provide engineering solutions to oil pollution. 

AUSMEPA has also provided seafarers visiting Australia with “Welcome to Australia” educational material covering topics ranging from the importance of protecting Australia’s unique marine environment to MARPOL regulation and other compliance requirements. 

Another AUSMEPA achievement is the maritime emissions portal. The organisation’s development of the Maritime Emissions Portal (MEP) after becoming a finalist in the 2016 Google Impact Challenge is a significant achievement for such a small organisation. 

Measuring the emissions of vessels in a port environs, the MEP was recently launched by AUSMEPA’s partners after years of research and development. 

In their letter, Mr Warwick and Ms Nash said AUSMEPA’s goal has been to facilitate marine environmental education and awareness through its schools programs and seafarer education. 

“To this end, [we] believe we have delivered,” they wrote.  

“We still have significant and up-to-date educational resources to hand, so please do get in contact if you have a use for these.”