Monday, April 23, 2012


Public consultation on the draft marine bioregional plans and the proposed marine reserves for all regions has now closed.

The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is currently considering all submissions as part of finalising advice to the Minister, Tony Burke, about options for changes to the draft bioregional plans and marine reserves. A key input to the Government’s decisions on the final marine reserves will be the work by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences (ABARES) to assess the socio-economic impacts of the proposed marine reserves.

The department continues working to meet the Government’s election commitment to finalise the Commonwealth waters marine reserves system by the end of 2012. There will be one further round of public consultation on final marine reserves proposals that will be held once any suggested changes have been considered by the Government.

Consultation reports
The overview reports summarising all the submissions received in the South-west, North and North-west are complete and available on the department’s website. The feedback has been wide-ranging, exploring many topics related to the draft marine bioregional plans and the proposed marine reserves for each region.
Temperate East and Coral Sea consultation

The overview reports and submissions for the Temperate East and Coral Sea marine reserves will be made available on the website once their assessments have been finalised.

Where to from here
In the last few months the department has been holding some follow-up meetings with a range of stakeholder group representatives across the planning regions to better understand the local implications of the marine reserves proposals and possible changes.
Once the marine reserves proposals are finalised by the Government, there will be a further round of public consultation run by the Director of National Parks before final decisions are made. This consultation will occur in the second half of 2012 and will focus on whether the marine reserves should be formally declared under national environmental law (the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act).

Adjustment Assistance Program
In May 2011 the Australian Government released the Fisheries Adjustment Policy to support the creation of Commonwealth marine reserves. The policy provides a framework for addressing the impacts on fishers and fishing-dependent communities as a result of the new marine reserves in Commonwealth waters. Any decision on whether adjustment assistance will be provided to fishers will be made on a case-by-case basis and based on an assessment of the impacts in accordance with the Fisheries Adjustment Policy. In the coming months the Department will begin discussions with the commercial fishing industry on the application of the policy.

Management Plans
Management Plans for the new marine reserves will be developed once the final marine reserves have been proclaimed under national environmental law. These plans will set out how the reserves are to be managed. The development of these plans will include two periods of public consultation.
More information on marine bioregional planning can be found at:

Sustainable oceans – Australia at the Rio+20 conference
The future of our oceans and coastal areas will be a major theme at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012.
The biodiversity of oceans is a significant resource. When used wisely, ocean resources can directly help address poverty, ensure food security, and promote sustainable livelihoods.
Many Pacific island countries are calling for the United Nations conference – also known as Rio+20 - to support the sustainable use of our oceans and their resources as a key outcome of the Conference. There is support for more sustainable fisheries and actions to address the impacts of climate change on oceans and coasts. Australia, as a neighbour and development partner, is discussing these matters with countries in our region and other nations Australia is involved in a number of initiatives that improve livelihoods and food security through sustainable management of marine resources and ecosystems. Examples include the Coral Triangle Initiative and the Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action project.

The Rio+20 Conference is an important step in international efforts to accelerate progress towards achieving sustainable development. It will provide an opportunity to re-energise international efforts to strengthen the three pillars of sustainable development: economic growth, social improvement and environmental protection.

More information on Rio+20 can be found at, where you can also subscribe to a special Rio+20 newsletter.

South-west Marine Region

North-west Marine Region

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Camden Sound Marine Park

Opinion piece: Richard Costin

Most Australians would have welcomed the announcement for the establishment of the Camden Sound Marine Park as a significant step forward for marine protection along the Kimberley coast.  At first glance the marine park appears to recognise the importance of Camden Sound for migrating humpback whales.  I have spent countless hours watching, filming and recording the wonders of the whales and marine environment in Camden Sound.  I have dived around Montgomery reef and Champagny island so i was delighted to hear that both these areas were to become special sanctuary areas  within the park.  This area of the Kimberley coast is special and  deserves the highest level of protection.  
Once the initial euphoria wore off I decided to reconsider the announcement in a broader regional context.  The two main question at the back of my mind required careful consideration:

  1. Would the Camden Sound whale sanctuary provide significant long term protection for migrating humpback whales?
  2. and how would the activities within the park zones affect the integrity of the park?

The Camden Sound Marine Park will cover a significant area of around 7000 square kilometres.  This includes 1670 square  kilometres for whale conservation, around 1400 square kilometres for the Montgomery Reef and Champagny Island sanctuary zones and 3457 square kilometres as general use zones.

The whale conservation area needs to be considered in the context of the distribution of the calving areas right along the kimberley coast, and in the context of the proposed Commonwealth Kimberley Marine Reserves in light of what protection that may provide the Kimberley’s  Humpback whales.  The main calving and resting grounds for Humpback whales in Kimberley waters extend from Eco Beach, south of Broome, to Camden Sound, approximately 400 kilometres north of Broome.  The main calving grounds cover an area of approximately 60,000 square kilometres.  The Camden Sound whale sanctuary will cover an area of 1670 square kilometres, or only about 3% of the calving grounds.  Independent surveys conducted by Kimberley Whale Watching over the past 5 years indicate that the highest concentration  of whales  on the kimberley coast occurs between Cape Leveque  and Broome during the peak migration period in July, August and September.  This is outside the Camden Sound whale sanctuary zone.

Two Commonwealth Marine National Parks [iucn 2] are proposed for the Kimberley Coast.  The smaller park will cover an area of 350 square kilometres adjacent to the western boundary of the Camden Sound Marine Park.  The larger park covers an area of 7,555 square kilometres and is a very important calving, breeding, feeding and resting area for humpback whales.  The proposed national parks should be considered as a whale sanctuary areas in line with the whale  conservation area in Camden Sound.

Federal minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, is also proposing to establish a Kimberley multiple use reserve in Commonwealth waters that will cover an area of around 54,886 square kilometres.  This includes an important congregation area between Adele island and the Lacepede Islands that should be regarded as critical habitat for the whales.  This multiple use zone is being opened up for oil and gas exploration and development and should be viewed as an industrial park and not a marine park.

Neither Colin Barnett nor Tony Burke are proposing to establish marine protected area in State or Commonwealth waters between the Lacepede Islands and Broome. This is perhaps the highest density humpback whale area on the kimberley coast.  This area is being left open for the development of the nearshore oil and gas industry and the establishment of one of the biggest oil and gas processing facilities  in the world.  The establishment of this industrial precinct  in the middle of one of the main calving, breeding and resting areas for the largest population of humpback whales in the world is outrageous.
So will the 1,670 square kilometre whale sanctuary in camden sound provide adequate protection for Kimberley whales in the face of a massive industrial expansion through their calving grounds?  The answer to that is emphatically  NO.

My euphoria  from the initial announcement about Camden Sound has completely evaporated and been replaced with a real sense of unease.That sense of unease increases when you consider the general use zones that have been proposed for Camden Sound.  These general use  zones will cover an area of 3,457 square kilometres, or 49 % of the marine park.  The Western shoals general use zone covers an area of 2,119 square kilometres to the west of and adjoining the whale conservation area and the Montgomery Reef Sanctuary Zone.  This has been left open for oil and gas exploration and development, mining, trawling and drift net fishing.  The Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery is allowed to use 2 kilometre gill nets with an 18 metre drop.  This is an important calving, resting and feeding area for humpback whales.

The Hall Point general use zone is around 282 square kilometres and is an important transit route for humpback whales moving between Collier Bay and Camden Sound.  Fortescue Metals holds the mining tenements along the eastern shore.  This area has been left open for mining, oil and gas exploration and development and commercial fishing.  The Saint George Basin General Use Zone is considered to be one of the most ecologically significant estuarine environments in the kimberley, with one of the most important mangrove systems in Australia, and in fact the world.  This has been left open for oil and gas development, mining and commercial fishing.  The general use areas cover 49% of the marine park and have been left open for industrial development. These areas should not be considered as a marine park.
The special purpose Kuri Bay  Pearling Zone covers an area of around 577 square kilometres. Pearling operations commenced in Camden Sound at Kuri Bay in 1956.  By 1973 Kuri Bay produced 60 % of the world’s large white south sea pearls.  The pearl leases are now held by Paspaley Pearling.  These operations rely on maintaining a healthy marine environment and are compatible with the marine park.  There is some disturbance to cows and calves that are resting and calving around Byam Martin and Augustus island.

The announcement of the establishment of the Camden sound marine park by Collin Barnett should be treated with some scepticism.  There is no doubt that the announcement is politically motivated and designed to deflect attention from the proposed industrial development at James Price Point.  Colin Barnett,Tony Burke, the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation and the Environmental Protection Authority have been made fully aware of the importance of the coastal waters between Broome and Cape Leveque for migrating humpback whales.  This includes the waters adjacent to James Price point.

At best, the whale conservation area in the Camden Sound Marine park represents around 3% of the calving grounds along the Kimberley coast.  The zoning  for the Camden Sound Marine Park and the proposed commonwealth marine parks  reflects the extraordinary influence the mining and oil and gas industry, the state minister for mines and Petroleum Norman Moore, and the Federal minister for resources Martin Ferguson have over the marine planning process in both state and commonwealth waters.  The zoning also reflects the weakness of our environmental ministers at law to provide long term effective protection for the kimberley marine environment.

Colin Barnett, Norman Moore and Martin Ferguson’s powers at law to regulate and resist the mining and petroleum industry once they have handed over control of our resources through the allocation of mining tenements  is also limited.  I hope they all take the time to reflect on the risks associated with offshore oil and gas industry and the consequences of the Montara and Deep Water Horizon oil rig disasters.

The Camden Sound Marine park will have an uncertain future if the mining and oil and gas industry are allowed to operate in or a round the park.  The establishment of the park will no doubt provide a political quick fix as a mining offset for the establishment of an industrial precinct at James Price Point.  If Colin Barnett is serious about  establishing a network of marine parks along the Kimberley coast, he may need to enact new legislation that guarantees long term protection and excludes industrial fishing and oil and gas development.  Alarm bells are ringing that the Camden Sound Marine Park and the proposed commonwealth multiple use reserves will become the new green wash for the offshore oil and gas industry.

The release of petroleum tenements in the Rowley Sub basin around the iconic Rowley Shoals Marine parks clearly demonstrates that Martin Fergusson is hell bent on opening up the kimberley coast to the oil and gas industry.  Woodside and Shell are about to embark on a massive exploration program around the Rowley Shoals in an area that is also being proposed by Tony Burke as a Commonwealth marine reserve.  Calls by Senator Bob Brown to strengthen our environment laws have come at a good time. The decision by Woodside and Shell not to refer their Rowley Shoals seismic testing programme to Tony Burke’s office for assessment under the environmental  protection and biodiversity conservation act clearly demonstrates that self regulation does not work.  The mining industry and oil and gas industry are now lobbying to remove Commonwealth scrutiny under the EPBC ACT.  They are proposing that the responsibility for environmental approvals are now handed back to the States.  The Prime Minister Julia Gillard is set to comply with their wishes.

The establisment of the Camden Sound Marine park is unlikely to provide  adequate  protection for the west coast population of humpback whales and their calving grounds in Kimberley waters.The rapid expansion of the oil and gas industry along the Kimberley coast coupled with a weakening of our environmental laws should be viewed as a major threat to the whales and the marine environment along the Kimberley coast.

Irukandji jellyfish close Broome beach

FLIP PRIOR, The West Australian
April 23, 2012, 10:25 am

Cable Beach has been closed to swimmers after an irukandji jellyfish was discovered during a routine stinger drag.
A spokesman for the Broome Shire said the deadly jellyfish was found just before 10am today.
Cable Beach will now remain closed until tomorrow morning when another net drag will be conducted.
A decision will then be made on whether it is safe to re-open the beach.
Lifeguards and the Shire of Broome beach inspector conduct routine stinger drags twice a day.
Anyone swimming, fishing or launching boats has been advised to remain vigilant and take precautions including wearing a stinger suit and carrying vinegar.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Time to draw a line in the sand

  • From:

  • The Australian 
  • April 21, 2012 12:00AM

  • FROM the heavens, they look like teardrops: tiny, translucent, turquoise teardrops in a sea of deep blue. They are the Rowley Shoals, a little-known wonderland of coral, sand, fish and nature's brilliance on the edges of the West Australian continental shelf, 250km northwest of Broome.

    To see the Rowley Shoals as tears is a valid and alarming analogy. For if the oil and gas mining industry has its way, this pristine and beautiful part of the world would be threatened with the kind of ecological disaster that could destroy it. If that were to happen, we would weep at what we had lost and at our stupidity for allowing it.

    The Rowleys are a priceless wilderness gem, deemed important enough to protect through a recent ban on fishing. But, apparently, in the eyes of the Gillard government they are not important enough to ban oil drilling.

    I have twice been to the Rowley Shoals. That makes me very privileged because WA marine park authorities estimate these tiny specks in the sea are visited each year by fewer than 200 diving and fishing enthusiasts. Those who go do so because of the shoals' remoteness and pristine beauty and, respecting that, treat the place with reverence and care.

    Can anyone say with surety or confidence that the oil and gas industry would do the same? Certainly not on recent evidence. The explosion and fire that wrecked BP's Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 led to almost five million barrels of crude oil spilling into the sea, destroying marine and bird life over a wide area of the US shoreline and devastating for years the gulf fishing and tourist industries.

    Closer to home, we had the blowout of the Montara well in the Timor Sea in 2009, which spilled nearly 250,000 barrels of crude into the ocean more than 10 weeks, much of which washed up on to the Kimberley coast.

    Last week, the Australian government announced it would license oil and gas exploration in new areas surrounding the shoals. Drilling rigs would be allowed to operate as close as 10km from the atolls, on the boundaries of the Rowley Shoals Marine Park.

    The northern-most reef is Mermaid, which remains under water and is administered by the commonwealth. The other reefs, Clerke and Imperieuse, are within state waters and are subject to WA law.

    Each is a coral mountain. Mermaid rises 440m from the sea floor, followed by Clerke at 390m and Imperieuse at 225m. Each reef covers an area of about 90sq km and Clerke and Imperieuse feature small island cays.

    Fishing has been banned on the Imperieuse reef and much of Clerke since 2007. The bans extend off the steep sides of the atolls in some areas. Only snorkelling and diving is allowed.

    The WA government's imposition of fishing bans was met with an outcry from recreational anglers who regarded the Rowleys as a supreme destination for sports fishing. On both my trips, in 2004 and 2006, the expectation was exceeded.

    During high tides, we fished over gardens of vibrant blue stag-horn coral growing from massive bomboras, marvelling at the sight of giant clams shimmering through crystal clear water and catching and releasing coral trout, maori wrasse, giant trevally, coral cod and red bass. During the lows, we trolled beside the reefs, hooking up with yellow fin tuna, barracuda and leaping, glistening sailfish as we watched waterfalls cascading from ponds on the reef.

    We stepped on to Bedwell Island, a tiny speck of glaring white coral and sand in Clerke reef where human hands have helped rare red-tailed tropic birds breed by building shady rock nests among the eroded coral. These threatened birds show no fear of humans.

    Fishing is an exciting activity - when they're biting. When they are not, wilderness places like the Rowleys invite introspection; thoughts about our place in the world, the beauty of untouched nature, the equation between exploitation and preservation and the arguments for each based on a common good.

    As you drift on a glassy turquoise sea where the horizon becomes indecipherable in the haze, the mind wanders as it tries to grasp realities: this is nature's reality - timeless, grand and perfect - yet it is not our reality. That is cars, trucks, buses, rushing to and from work, dashing to the shops, mowing the lawn and feeding the kids. The two can exist but not together.

    Neither can oil drilling and the world's natural wonders. We would all readily admit we need oil to fuel our cars, trucks, buses and lawn-mowers and we need gas to generate electricity to heat and cool our homes and offices. We accept the modern world is built on fossil fuels and extracting them is Big Business with capital Bs.

    But drilling for oil and gas is a dirty business and for this reason the government and the oil companies say they undertake extensive and rigorous environmental assessments before any seismic or drilling work begins. Fair enough, but accidents do happen and if drilling is going on close to the Rowleys, it could happen there.

    Does the price of oil or gas deserve the risk? Not in my book; not when there are plenty of other wells and no other Rowley Shoals.

    One of my companions on the Rowley visits was Darwin-based lawyer and conservationist Lex Silvester, who helped the development of sustainable fishing practices in the Northern Territory.

    He says today: "I have walked, fished, sailed and lived in wilderness most of my life. Wilderness sustains me and I know and understand its power as a redeeming force in human existence and as a source of human inspiration. Without it, people will be bereft.

    "It is time to ask: is nothing sacred? The Rowleys are quite simply at the top of the list of places which ought to be off-limits and preserved for the future at all costs. It is time that big oil and gas started to care. They should be prepared to accept limits to their power and reach and understand that there are lines in the sand which even they should not cross."

    Time will tell if the public cares enough about a priceless place the vast majority has never seen, and never will. Maybe because it's out of sight it will not be seen as a wonderland equal to the Great Barrier Reef in every respect except size, or grip the populace as something worthy of a Franklin River-style environmental battle. But it strikes me as crazily odd that the Rowleys are regarded sufficiently important to ban recreational fishing, and not important enough to ban oil drilling.

    Thursday, April 19, 2012

    Trawlers allowed in new Kimberley marine park

    ABC News

    Conservation groups have heralded the State Government's announcement of Camden Sound Marine Park as a significant win for the Kimberley.

    But the Opposition is questioning why trawl fishing will still be allowed.
    The park is the first of four to be created in the Kimberley and will cover 7,000 square kilometres of sea and coastline 300 kilometres north of Broome.
    The park will cost the State Government $10 million over four years. The other parks will be created at Eighty Mile Beach, Roebuck Bay and the North Kimberley.
    The Environment Minister Bill Marmion says a special zone will protect one of the world's biggest whale nurseries, with boats required to stay at least 500 metres away from the animals.
    "In that particular special purpose zone, the whale zone we know there is about 1000 whales that calve there between June and November each year so this area will be protected, the conservation values will be protected,' he said.
    Almost half the park will be closed to fishing trawlers, while about 20 per cent will be closed to other forms of commercial fishing.
    Paul Gamblin from World Wildlife Fund says it is a huge win for conservation.
    "We think levels of protection could be increased down the track, but overall we think this is a great plan," he said.


    However, the Opposition's environment spokeswoman Sally Talbot disagrees.
    "Trawling has no place in a marine park, so it's bitterly disappointing," she said.
    "In an area like Camden Sounds, we would have expected an exclusion zone of about 70 per cent. Yet the Barnett Government will only close 23 per cent of the park to commercial fishing."
    Ms Talbot says the Government should help the trawl sector move into trap and line fishery.
    The state's Fishing Industry Association has questioned the government's commitment to compensating commercial fishermen.
    About four north west companies will be banned from fishing commercially in some areas of the marine park.
    The government promised compensation would be paid, if appropriate.
    The association's chief executive Guy Leyland says those words imply that compensation is conditional.
    "Ah we find that comment curious in regard to 'if appropriate'. Frankly, there's a statutory requirement for the government to pay compensation for affected commercial operators who are removed from these areas," he said.
    The park will be formally created in the next few months.

    Wednesday, April 18, 2012

    Commercial fishing restrictions in Kimberley's Camden Sound marine park

    pn kimberley whales
    PROTECTION: The Camden Sound marine park will ensure protection of a valuable breeding ground for migrating humpbacks.Source: Annabelle Sandes - Kimberley Media
    COMMERCIAL fishing will be phased out and recreational fishers required to release their catch in a new Kimberley marine park announced by the State Government.
    The new marine sanctuary, known as Camden Sound, will cover 7000sq m of coastline about 300km north-east of Broome.

    Under the plan, pearling operations will have designated areas, half of the area will be closed to commercial trawl fishing and 23 per cent will be closed to all forms of commercial fishing.

    For the first time in WA, the State Government has also introduced a "wilderness" fishing zone within the sanctuary, where recreational fishers and charter boats will be required to release their catch or eat it before leaving the area.

    The plan comes a month after the government announced commercial fishing would be banned along sections of the South-West coast as part of the Ngari Capes Marine Park plan.

    Premier Colin Barnett said the new Camden Sound Marine Park would be one of the biggest sanctuaries in the state and protect a vital humpback whale calving area.

    Thousands of humpback whales that annually migrate along the west coast will have increased protection under the plan, he said.

    "Camden Sound is internationally recognised as the biggest calving area for humpback whales in the southern hemisphere with more than 1,000 humpbacks found there during the calving season," Mr Barnett said.

    “They are part of the biggest population of humpback whales in the world - numbering almost 30,000 - that migrate from Antarctica each year to give birth in the waters off the north of our State.”

    Environment Minister Bill Marmion said vessels within a "special purpose zone" would be required to remain at least 500m from humpback mothers and calves

    “There will also be two sanctuary zones comprising about 20 per cent of the marine park area around Champagny Islands and Montgomery Reef, which is exposed on the outgoing tide to reveal a series of awe-inspiring waterfalls.

    “Montgomery Reef sanctuary zone, at 761 square kilometres, will become the biggest sanctuary zone in the WA marine park system."

    Camden Sound is the first of four new marine parks to be created under the State Government's $63million Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy.

    Wilderness Society marine campaigner Jenita Enevoldsen said the conservation group welcomed the announcement as the Kimberley marine environment was one of the natural wonders of the world. 

    "The region is one of Australia's last remaining large and healthy refuges for many threatened species including: humpback whales, snubfin dolphins, dugongs, saw sharks and six of the seven sea turtle species," Ms Enevoldsen said. 

    "Camden Sound Marine Park is the right way forward for the Kimberley. It recognises that the future for this region is in protecting and promoting its unique natural and cultural values through a conservation economy, not in pursuing unnecessary and destructive industrial projects such as the James Price Point gas hub - which would be located in the unprotected southern end of the Kimberley humpback whale nursery." 

    Conservation Council of WA's Tim Nicol said the marine park showed leadership and vision from the Premier "at a time when the future of the Kimberley is at a crossroads".
    Mr Barnett said other parks would be created at Eighty Mile Beach, Roebuck Bay and the North Kimberley.

    He said "where appropriate" compensation would be paid to fishing operations impacted by new regulations within Camden Sound.

    The marine park will be jointly managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation and the traditional owners, including the Dambimangari and Uunguu people.

    The marine park is expected to be created by mid-2012.

    Kimberley Whale Watching on Camden Sound Marine Park

    Kimberley Whale Watching congratulates the Western Australian State Government on the creation of the Camden Sound Marine Park on the Kimberley coast covering an area of nearly 7,000km2.


    Cliff breaches 2
    Breach at Lulim Island
    PRLog (Press Release) - Apr 19, 2012 - Kimberley Whale Watching congratulates the Western Australian State Government in announcing the new Camden Sound Marine Park.  The park, which was announced by former Environment Minister Donna Faragher in October 2009 covers a large area considered one of the main calving grounds for Breeding Stock D,  the world's largest population of Humpback whales, and Montgomery Reef, which at 350km2 is considered to beone of Australia's largest inshore reefs. The State Government will be working closely with traditional owners and sea rangers in the joint management of the park.

    The Kimberley's Humpback whales use the islands and reefs of the marine park as areas to shelter whilst feeding and nurturing young calves.  Through our observations of Humpback whale distribution and behaviour along the Kimberley coast and outer reefs and shoals over the past six years, we have also noted the importance of the Dampier Peninsula as a whale calving, resting and feeding area, and urge the State Government to consider increased protection for the Humpback whale population along this part of the coast.  We hope that the state government will extend the areas under marine protection to include the Buccaneer Archipelago, Talbot Bay, Dugong Bay and the Horizontal Waterfalls.


    Camden Sound Marine Park announced

    Portfolio: Premier, Environment
    • Premier and Environment Minister announce major marine sanctuary
    • Camden Sound Marine Park to be one of WA’s biggest
    • Park will protect State’s most important humpback whale calving area
    Thousands of humpback whales that annually migrate along the west coast will have increased protection within a new Kimberley marine park to be created by the State Government.

    Premier Colin Barnett and Environment Minister Bill Marmion today announced the Government’s decision to create Camden Sound Marine Park, about 300km north-east of Broome.

    “Camden Sound, covering nearly 7,000 square kilometres, is the first of four new marine parks to be created under the $63million Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy.  Other parks will be created at Eighty Mile Beach, Roebuck Bay and the North Kimberley,” Mr Barnett said.

    “Creating this marine park reaffirms our election commitment to protect this significant and biologically important region.

    “Camden Sound is internationally recognised as the biggest calving area for humpback whales in the southern hemisphere with more than 1,000 humpbacks found there during the calving season.

    “They are part of the biggest population of humpback whales in the world - numbering almost 30,000 - that migrate from Antarctica each year to give birth in the waters off the north of our State.”

    Mr Marmion said a special purpose zone would be created covering about 1,670 square kilometres to enhance protection of the humpback whale calving grounds.

    “This zone will require vessels to remain at least 500m from humpback mothers and calves,” Mr Marmion said.

    “There will also be two sanctuary zones comprising about 20 per cent of the marine park area - more than 1,300 square kilometres - around Champagny Islands and Montgomery Reef, which is exposed on the outgoing tide to reveal a series of awe-inspiring waterfalls.

    “Montgomery Reef sanctuary zone, at 761 square kilometres, will become the biggest sanctuary zone in the WA marine park system.

    “We have also included a small general use zone covering the frequently visited area known as ‘The River’ at Montgomery Reef.  This will allow some fishing and other activities to continue in this area.

    “The marine park’s zoning scheme will help protect a unique marine environment, while allowing recreational and commercial fishing as well as aquaculture and pearling to occur.”

    For the first time ever in Western Australia, there will be a zone which provides for a ‘wilderness’ fishing experience where recreational fishers (including charter boats) must either catch and release or eat their catch before leaving the zone.  Commercial fishing and other commercial activities will not be permitted nor will spearfishing.

    Pearling operations will be recognised in a designated zone and some commercial fishing operations will phased out, with 48 per cent of the marine park closed to commercial trawl fishing and 23 per cent closed to all forms of commercial fishing.  If appropriate, compensation will be paid to affected fishing operations.

    Camden Sound Marine Park will contain a range of coral reef communities at Wildcat Reef and in the vicinity of Champagny and Augustus islands.

    The marine park will also be home to seagrass and macroalgal communities, extensive mangrove forests of the St George Basin and lower Prince Regent River, tidal flats, and a habitat for dugong, sawfish and dolphins.

    The marine park will be jointly managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation and the traditional owners, including the Dambimangari and Uunguu people.

    The Government has committed $10million over four years to protecting and managing Camden Sound Marine Park, with ongoing funding of $2.3million a year from 2015-16.

    The marine park will be created by mid-2012 followed by gazettal of the zone boundaries later in the year.

          Fact File
    • Camden Sound marine park will have 2 sanctuary zones, 3 special purpose zones and 4 general use zones
    • The marine park is one of 4 being created in WA’s Kimberley region under the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy
    • Final management plan for Camden Sound Marine Park to be released later this year
    Premier’s office - 6552 5000
    Environment Minister’s office - 6552 6800

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Fishing feud threatens marine plan

    DANIEL MERCER, The West Australian
    Updated July 15, 2011, 2:30 am
    Premier Colin Barnett's much-touted Camden Sound marine park in the Kimberley has hit a hurdle amid a turf war between Environment Minister Bill Marmion and Fisheries Minister Norman Moore.
    Weeks ahead of the expected release of the multimillion-dollar final plan, it is understood the two ministers and their departments have reached a stalemate over the issue of sanctuary, or "no-take", zones.
    The impasse is believed to centre on the draft plan's so-called "wilderness fishing zone" in a prized area of the 700,000ha park.
    The proposed zone, which was pushed by Mr Moore and approved by then environment minister Donna Faragher, would allow recreational fishing at Montgomery Reef but forbid commercial angling.
    There are also believed to be tensions between the two ministers over another reef system around Champagny Island, which has been designated a sanctuary zone. Mr Moore who has questioned the value of no-take areas, is understood to be concerned the decision could cripple a Kimberley-based mackerel fishing operation.
    Environmental groups have branded wilderness fishing outrageous, claiming it fails to protect one of the most biologically important areas of the park, while professional fishers have derided it as a nonsense and discriminatory.
    Prominent marine scientist Jessica Meowing, of the University of WA, said the differences between Mr Marmion and Mr Moore seemed intractable and threatened to derail the process.
    She called on Mr Barnett, who has called the park one of the most significant environmental developments in WA, to intervene.
    The WA Fishing Industry Council, which represents commercial fishers, said the proposed sanctuary zones should be scrapped because they were unnecessary and not based in reliable evidence.
    WAFIC has previously argued there should instead be seasonal closures to protect whales.
    Recreational fishing lobby Redfishes also questioned the validity of no-take zones, but has welcomed the provision of wilderness fishing areas.

    Rowley Shoals oil and gas exploration controversy

    ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government's decision to call for expressions of interest in oil and gas projects close to a protected marine area is sparking another environmental battle in the country's north.

    Rowley Shoals is a pristine reef about 260 kilometres north-west of Broome and is protected by three marine parks.

    Environment reporter Conor Duffy:

    CONOR DUFFY: You can't get much more remote than Rowley Shoals off the north-west coast of Western Australia.

    And rare underwater footage provided to the ABC shows the isolation has meant protection.

    ABC  Conor Duffy reported this story on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 07:27:00

    Paul Gamblin from the World Wildlife Fund hopes it'll show the world what a special place the Rowley Shoals is.

    PAUL GAMBLIN: It's kind of an Attenborough moment when you look at this footage and really appreciate how special this place is. It's a place that is unknown to many Australians. It's a place where wildlife including whales and dolphins, turtles, sharks, tuna, fish in their abundance, hundreds of species of coral are found. It really is a very special place.

    CONOR DUFFY: The Federal Government has called for expressions of interest in oil and gas projects just three nautical miles from the reef.

    On the department's website the pink lease area is broken up by three small circles that denote the marine parks of the reef.

    Companies have to submit their bids by tomorrow. Development could include seismic activity and drilling. Paul Gamblin says that heavy work couldn't coexist with a fragile reef.

    PAUL GAMBLIN: Look we believe that it's a really important moment in Australia's marine conservation history and this is a moment for Australia, for the Australian Government, to get the balance right. It's opened up huge areas to the oil and gas sector.

    CONOR DUFFY: The Minister for Resources Martin Ferguson was unavailable for interview.

    In a statement he says the ecological value of the reef and the fact part of the potential lease area is being considered for a marine reserve was noted in the acreage release.

    EXTRACT FROM MARTIN FERGUSON'S STATEMENT: Any successful bidder will have to have an environmental plan assessed by regulators prior to undertaking any seismic or drilling activity. The legislation requires a comprehensive assessment of all significant impacts on matters of national and environmental significance.

    CONOR DUFFY: But Paul Gamblin says history shows that after the initial expression of interest projects often proceed quickly.

    PAUL GAMBLIN: If the Government proceeds with the release of this acreage and if the oil and gas sector believes it can reconcile its commitments to look after the environment with drilling so close to an environment like this, it could be within months that we'll see oil rigs right off the Rowley Shoals.

    ELEANOR HALL: Paul Gamblin from the World Wildlife Fund with Conor Duffy.

    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    Pearl diver dies off WA coast

    Monday, 16/04/2012
    The pearl industry is in shock after the death of a 22-year-old diver who was working off the Western Australian coast, south of Broome, over the weekend.
    The Victorian man was in a team of six diving for pearl shells off the 80 Mile Beach.
    Police say he surfaced in a distressed state and died not long after.
    Executive officer of the Pearl Producers Association, Brett McCallum, says it's not yet known what caused the death, the first of an Australian pearl diver in 24 years.
    "We haven't had any incident since 1988, so we would argue that our diving is very safe," he said.
    "It's early days yet as to exactly what the cause of this loss of life is and we'll be doing everything we can to find out what happened, and hopefully if there's anything we can implement and improve, we will certainly do so."

    Young pearl diver dies off Kimberley coast

    A 22-year-old commercial pearl diver from Victoria has died during a dive off WA’s Kimberley coast.
    Police say the man was diving from a vessel about 163km south of Broome when he became distressed at 4.30pm (WST) on Saturday.
    Despite attempts by crew members to save him, the man died at the scene, police said.
    The vessel returned to Broome early on Sunday.
    Water police will fly from Perth to Broome on Sunday to assist in the investigation.