New Study Makes Strong Case for a 'Great Kimberley Marine Park'
A new study has found that establishing a Great Kimberley Marine Park with Indigenous joint management would create a global icon in WA's far north rivaling the Great Barrier Reef.
The Kimberley Coast: A Last Sanctuary, Nine Iconic Places, identified nine special areas along the Kimberley coast, including the spectacular Buccaneer Archipelago, which is home to more than 900 islands dating back 2 billion years.
Produced by an alliance of WA, national, and international conservation groups, the study endorses and extends Premier Colin Barnett's vision for a Great Kimberley Marine Park and found that protecting the Kimberley's marine environment would reinforce the region's reputation as one of the last large unspoiled places on Earth.
“Less than five per cent of the Kimberley marine environment is currently safeguarded from the threats of fishing and damages caused by industrial development, such as oil and gas drilling”, said John Carey, Kimberley conservation manager with the Pew Environment Group.
“Great legacies have been created with the Great Barrier Reef and at Ningaloo. The Kimberley is a jewel in WA's and Australia's crown, and it is now time it becomes a global icon by establishing a Great Kimberley Marine Park that provides for its long-term protection”, said Mr Carey.
“More than 20,000 humpback whales migrate to the Kimberley's near-pristine waters from Antarctica each year to calve, and six of the world's seven species of marine turtle call this region home. It is time to seize the moment to create the Great Kimberley Marine Park”, said Paul Gamblin, marine conservation spokesperson with WWF-Australia.
“The next Kimberley park can take advantage of new laws to support joint management by Aboriginal communities with all the benefits that flow from that”, said Mr Gamblin.
The study highlights the Kimberley marine environment's vastness and importance. The region extends north from Eighty Mile Beach and east to the Northern Territory border, an area of 630,000 square kilometres, or more than twice the size of Victoria.
“A Great Kimberley Marine Park must protect these nine unique and crucial areas for marine life if it is to become a global icon”, said Jenita Enevoldsen, marine campaigner with The Wilderness Society.
“Time is running out for the Kimberley”, said Ms Enevoldsen. “For millions of years, the Kimberley has remained unspoiled, but suddenly massive industrial development has been proposed. We have a responsibility to take this once-in-a-generation chance to safeguard the Kimberley for our future.”
The Kimberley's nine iconic areas identified in the study are:
- Eighty Mile Beach: Home to more than 450,000 migrating birds;
- Roebuck Bay: Enormous seascape rich in wildlife, from snubfin dolphins to migratory birds;
- Dampier Peninsula: Includes James Price Point, with crucial feeding and breeding areas for fish stocks and rare turtles;
- King Sound and Fitzroy River: Largest free-flowing river in WA;
- Camden Sound and Montgomery Reef: Home to the largest humpback whale nursery in the Southern hemisphere;
- Buccaneer Archipelago: World-class marine environment covering more than 900 islands with an abundance of marine life;
- Talbot Bay and Collier Baby region: Home to the Horizontal Falls, a natural wonder of the world;
- North Kimberley: Spectacular, remote marine environment with fringing reefs (a type of coral reef) and hundreds of islands;
- Ocean shoals: Rowley Shoals and Scott Reef, globally important reef systems that support a large number of fish species and other marine life.