The Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) Marine Reserve is classified as ‘strict nature reserve’, meaning that it is to be ‘managed primarily for research and environmental monitoring’.

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), as manager of the Reserve on behalf of the Director of National Parks, is responsible for protecting, conserving and managing biodiversity and heritage, and for facilitating research and investigations to help meet these management objectives for the Reserve.

The HIMI Marine Reserve Management Plan outlines research and monitoring priorities to contribute to Reserve management, and arise from the 'drivers' described below:

The AAD is also developing a strategic monitoring approach for Australia’s subantarctic marine protected areas—the HIMI Marine Reserve and the Macquarie Island Marine Park. The strategy will guide research and monitoring activities to provide information on the health of the marine protected areas and the effectiveness of management actions.

Managing human pressures

Research and environmental monitoring is necessary to improve our understanding of the HIMI environment and how it is changing. This understanding, in turn, helps to develop better management strategies for how we can minimise any changes that are potentially resulting from human activities or pressures.

Examples of such research and monitoring include recording the number of vessels and people visiting, determining the impact of human activities through the presence of facilities, equipment, sampling sites or spills sites, and recording wildlife deaths resulting from collisions with vessels, guy wires or scientific studies.

Legal and other requirements

Monitoring and reporting on the condition of the HIMI environment is also a requirement under Australian legislation. Annual ‘State of the Park’ reporting required for all Commonwealth reserve also involves reporting on the status of the HIMI Marine Reserve, while various recovery plans, actions plans and threat abatement plans require periodic monitoring and reporting on the condition of wildlife populations such as albatrosses and giant petrels, southern elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals.

There are also periodic reporting requirements under international agreements relevant to HIMI, such as reporting on state of the World Heritage values and of the ecological character of the wetlands. Research and environmental monitoring is essential to meet these requirements.

The AAD maintains a State of the Environment Reporting System called SIMR (the System for Indicator Management and Reporting). This internet-based database reporting system provides for the management and evaluation of information relating to environmental indicators of condition, pressure and response.

There are several indicators relevant to HIMI, and additional indicators will be developed to facilitate management and reporting requirements.

SIMR can be accessed via the AAD’s Australian Antarctic Data Centre website.

Ecologically sustainable development

Research within the Reserve contributes to the integrated and ecologically sustainable management of the HIMI region as a whole. Studies of fish stocks, the foraging ranges and diets of land-based marine predators, and the composition and condition of benthic communities provide essential information to guide the sustainable management of the HIMI fishery and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) region in which the Reserve is located.