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.