Kimberley in line for new marine parks

The Barnett Government has sought to boost its green credentials by announcing the establishment of two new marine parks in the Kimberley.

During his whirlwind trip to Broome last month, Premier Colin Barnett announced the Government would create a massive marine park around Horizontal Falls at Talbot Bay.

Environment Minister Bill Marmion later added to the announcement by revealing he had officially gazetted another marine conservation area off Eighty Mile Beach between Broome and Port Hedland.

Mr Marmion said the newly created Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park — the 13th in the State — was a key component of the Liberal National Government’s $63 million Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy.

It extends through almost 210,000ha from about 30km west of Cape Keraudren in the south to 10km south of Cape Missiessy in the north-east.

The announcement was welcomed by environmental groups.

WWF Australia spokesman Paul Gamblin said the new park would form a piece in the puzzle for a future network of marine protected areas the Kimberley’s marine life desperately needed. Environs Kimberley director Martin Pritchard also welcomed the announcement but warned if the proposed gas hub at James Price Point went ahead, it would undermine the conservation initiative.

However, WA’s peak fishing bodies said the Government had failed to advise them of plans for a marine park around the

Kimberley’s Horizontal Falls, prompting claims it had ignored them for political purposes.

WA Fishing Industry Council chairman Brad Adams said the failure, while typical of recent years, was disappointing and smacked of political opportunism at the expense of proper process.

Although the Government had yet to outline where it would forbid fishing in the proposed new marine park, Mr Adams said commercial fishermen would likely bear the brunt of any such measures.

Broome comm.ercial fisherman Bob Masters gave a cautionary welcome to the marine parks plan, and said while control was necessary for conservation purposes, he was concerned about the effects on the commercial sector.

“As long as it doesn’t affect the commercial fishing side of things, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “The public relies on the commercial sector to provide their seafood. Any impact on the commercial sector by way of reduction of access is a reduction of the population’s access to their seafood.”

Mr Masters said there was a need to gazette areas such as Horizontal Falls to protect habitat from frequent visitation, but the commercial sector did not impact the area on fishing.