Post of the Month: Cutting Through the Spin: The New Camden Sound Marine Park

This month’s post of the month as decided by number of readers was:

Cutting Through the Spin: The New Camden Sound Marine Park

Thanks to all readers, commenters and subscribers! And thanks to Best Green Blogs for listing The Happy Squid Blog.

Note you can subscribe to the blog by email via the box at the top of the right hand column of this page or follow me on Twitter (@Happy_Squid).

With summer approaching and big decisions expected on new marine sanctuaries for Western Australia that will determine the fate of our South West marine life for the next ten years, this month is the time to support the Save Our Marine Life campaign.  Join the online campaign here. Join on facebook here.

Wishing you a Happy November!


Karara mine to take 5.3gL of water from farming area for free

See the west coverage here.

In short “With a stroke of a pen, Water Minister Graham Jacobs can take groundwater access from 20 Mid-West farmers and their future generations and hand it to a mining company for nothing.

He can do this because the Department of Water policy on accessing water rights in WA is on a first-in, first-served basis.

Karara Mining has applied to pump big amounts of drinkable water 180km from the Parmelia Leederville aquifer in Mingenew, 380km north of Perth.”

The Karara mine is on Banded Ironstone Formations, a landform that is home to unique and restricted biodiversity in WA’s midwest region.  Because of mining interests, none of the banded ironstones are protected.   See a short video on the Banded Ironstones here.

The Karara mining project includes a hematite mine on nearby Mungada Ridge that has been recommended as a nature reserve and where mining was approved against the advice of the Government’s environmental watchdog, the EPA.  A previous blog post of Karara is here.

5.3gL of water is a lot at a time when wheat belt towns, and Perth’s dams, are drying.  It is also concerning that sourcing the water hasn’t been considered as part of the Environmental Impact Study on the project.

Colin Barnett’s Kimberley Wilderness Parks & Conservation Strategy

Colin Barnett’s announcement of a new Kimberley Wilderness Park – including the so called Great Kimberley Marine Park – and a Kimberley Conservation Plan, should have been a visionary announcement as he has claimed. But it was not.
The reasons why are simple. He simply didn’t listen to the advice of the people who know, as best described by Prof Jessica Meeuwig from UWA who simply said there was no science behind the Parks. She described the protection accorded marine life by the Camden Sound Marine Park as woefully inadequate. Which was nicer than one news outlet who reported the process of zoning the new marine park as ‘Colin Barnett scribling on the map with crayons.’
It is an indictment upon the Premier but also on the Department’s who advise him, particularly the DEC who should have been giving him the conservation science, that he couldn’t make the most of this opportunity. In an area of low use conflict and extraordinary and undisputed environmental value, he could have achieved a very good conservation outcome.
The criticism has so far focused on the detail of the first marine park to be announced in Camden Sound. You can see my summary of this new park on the blog posts – link to come (here is it!).
But on land there are similar bungles. The worst being the so called upgrade of the Prince Regent Nature Reserve to a National Park. In reality this is a downgrade in protection. A nature reserve is managed soley for conservation. A national park is also for human use and opens the area up for increased tourism use and development – you could argue the merits of this, but it is clearly a bungle in spin over the truth. Other ideas such as increased joint management with Traditional Owners are excellent in theory, but still need the detail.
Fortunately, there is still time to get it right. Consultation on the detail of the Camden Sound Marine Park has just begun and the details of future land and sea parks are yet to be announced. If the Premier can reach out to Scientists and Conservationists to get the advice he needs on what modern standards for protection are, then his vision of being the man who saved the Kimberley could be real.
Its been a poor start, but the race isn’t over yet.
(note more details on Camden Sound and links to make submissions on Happy Squid. Links to come. Here is is – link to DEC website with details and comment form)

Posted by Wordmobi

What is the evidence that we need Marine Sanctuaries?

High levels of protection are supported by the best science:

“A figure of 10% under no-take protection would slow but not prevent loss of biodiversity: the current no-take level in the GBRMP of 33% is more likely to achieve substantial and sustained biodiversity benefits… Rare and vulnerable ecosystems or communities should be provided with greater protection – up to 100% where an isolated ecosystem or habitat type is endangered”

Statement from the Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA), “Position statement on marine protected areas” (2008) (note: AMSA is Australia’s leading marine science association)

“The final MPA network should consist of a minimum of 30% of the area of each Bioregion… Individual conservation features should all be represented in high protection zones at a minimum of 30%… Conservation features that are known to be significant, threatened, or in a degraded state will normally require greater proportional representation”

Scientific Principles for Design of Marine Protected Areas in Australia: A Guidance Statement, (2009), produced by University of Queensland and endorsed by 50 of Australia’s top marine scientists.

“Creating a worldwide system of very large marine no-take areas is an essential and long-overdue contribution to improving stewardship of the global marine environment.”

Statement from the PEW Global Ocean Legacy, 8th June 2010, signed by over 245 leading marine scientists from more than 35 countries.


Science shows marine sanctuaries work:

“With 32% of GBR reef area in no-take reefs, and fish densities about two times greater on those reefs, fish populations across the ecosystem have increased considerably…the reserve network is also helping the plight of threatened species like dugongs and marine turtles.”

Media comment from authors of the paper, Adaptive Management of the Great Barrier Reef: a globally significant demonstration of the benefits of a network of marine reserves, (Feb 2010), a paper written by 21 of Australia’s leading marine scientists.

“Global evidence, including from the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Marine Parks, shows that fish abundance and biomass are 2 to 5 times greater within sanctuary zones than areas that are open to fishing. .. sanctuary zones enhance fishing through the spill-over of adults into fished areas … increasing evidence suggests that commercial fishing yields are highest near marine park boundaries.”

Open letter from 10 leading Western Australian marine scientists, Camden Sound – the perfect candidate for a large marine sanctuary, Published in The West Australian 22nd March 2010


Marine Sanctuaries Have Economic Benefits

“The results of the study indicate that even without the non-market benefits of marine protection, the combination of fishery buffer benefits, spillovers for commercial and recreational fishers and increased ecotourism benefits are likely to outweigh the displacement costs.”

Dr Martin Van Bueren, Director at Allen Consulting, The Economics of Marine Protected Areas: Application of Principles to Australia’s Southwest Marine Region, Nov 2009


What’s the Difference: Marine Parks and Marine Sanctuaries?

Marine Sanctuaries are the equivalent of National Parks on land, areas where fish and their habitat are protected from all fishing, mining and oil extraction.  Scientific research shows dramatic increases in fish populations and marine life health within marine sanctuaries.

Marine Parks are areas managed by conservation authorities.  They may include marine sanctuary areas as special zones within their borders. Marine parks allow restricted fishing and mining.  Scientific research shows that these areas do not produce the same dramatic benefits as marine sanctuaries.


The Marine Sanctuary that isn’t (for part of the day)

An update on my previous post.  One of the marine sanctuaries I had been praising in the new Camden Sound marine park has turned out to be not all it seems.

At low tide, the Montgomery Reef is completely out of the water.  It seems the entire sanctuary zone is within this areas, so all the fish are forced out into the surrounding wilderness fishing zone for a few hours each day!


Cutting through the Spin: The New Camden Sound Marine Park

What is actually protected by the new Camden Sound Marine Park proposal? Amongst all the excellent information about the amazing world class environmental values of the Kimberley, sadly the answer is nowhere near as much as the Government is claiming.

In more detail, the answer is two areas focussed around some important coral reef, at Montgomery Islands and Champagne Island totalling about 1.9% of the Kimberley waters, and around 13% of the new marine park, are fully protected in adequately sized sanctuary zones. This is good, but needs to be put in perspective that this also means that 98.1% of Kimberley waters will remain open to mining and fishing if this proposal goes ahead in its current form.

It is also useful to get the prawn trawl out of the whale conservation zone; that will help the whales over a section of their nursery range and be good for the whole ecosystem. Although it won’t make up for the damage that would be done to the whale nursery by a hub, just in case anyone is forgetting that part of the Kimberley equation. And I hope when 80-mile beach is announced, no one forgets that this is required as an offset for sacrificing the endangered turtle nesting beaches at Barrow Island to gas development.

The whale zone also seems bizarrely located so I’m still trying to work out why it is where it is, maybe it is based on whale concentrations, but it could be influenced by other factors so I’ll try and update that soon.

So what do all the other ‘zones’ mean? I you stick to the science and ignore the spin, primarily they are social use management dressed up as conservation.

The new ‘wilderness fishing zone’ is an interesting one. Not based on any science whatsoever, it is disingenuous for the DEC to say it is managed for conservation of the ecosystem. That is what sanctuary zones are for according to a consensus of world marine biologists. This is a management zone designed to protect wilderness fishing tourism. That is ok, but don’t dress it up in a green dress. It is somewhat usefully located around the Montgomery Islands sanctuary as a sort of buffer zone to more intensive social uses.

UPDATE: At low tide, the Montgomery Reef is completely out of the water.  It seems the entire sanctuary zone is within this ‘inter-tidal’ area, so all the fish are forced out into the surrounding wilderness fishing zone for a few hours each day!

The rest is open to all types of fishing, or managed for aquaculture. There are two mining tenements within the marine park that could do lots of damage to the unique marine and terrestrial life of the Kimberley, not to mention its wilderness landscape values.

Large amounts are in a ‘General Use Zone’, which pretty much means that the Government is trying to con you. It is business as usual inside the borders of a marine park and may as well not be in one. It is designed to make it look like they are protecting much more than they are. There are a lot of fancy words in the management plan to prove this.

It is also concerning that the only sanctuary zones are focussed around coral reefs. Coral reefs are certainly one habitat worthy of sanctuary protection, but the science is recommending that we protect 20-30% of all the world’s oceans to maintain ecological function and keep fisheries sustainable, with more in special and sensitive areas like coral reefs, or the Kimberley marine environment.

I’ll put up a quick quote list of a few high profile science backing that support this soon.

In 2010, this is simply not good enough. WA needs to move to a regional marine planning framework driven by science and aimed at a representative system of marine sanctuaries, not driven by political imperatives and a good sound bite.

You can comment on the new plan via this link… The draft plan can also be downloaded from here.