The State Government has announced it will create new marine park in the Kimberley.
Premier Colin Barnett and Environment Minister Bill Marmion today said the Government would create Camden Sound Marine Park, about 300km north-east of Broome to help protect humpback whales.
“Camden Sound, covering nearly 7000 sqkm is the first of four new marine parks to be created under the $63 million Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy,” Mr Barnett said.
“Other parks will be created at Eighty Mile Beach, Roebuck Bay and the North Kimberley,” he said.
Mr Marmion said a special purpose zone would be created covering about 1670 sqkm 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 1300 sqkm - around Champagny Islands and Montgomery Reef, which is exposed on the outgoing tide to reveal a series of awe-inspiring waterfalls.”
For the first time ever in WA, there will be a zone which provides for a ‘wilderness’ fishing experience where recreational fishers must either catch and release or eat their catch before leaving the zone.
Commercial fishing and other commercial activities as well as spearfishing will not be permitted.
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.
The Government said, if appropriate, compensation will be paid to affected fishing operations.
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 $10 million over four years to protecting and managing Camden Sound Marine Park, with ongoing funding of $2.3 million a year from 2015-16.
Conservation group Environs Kimberley has welcomed the establishment of the marine park but warned marine life would continue to be at risk in the Kimberley if projects like the Browse LNG proposal at James Price Point were approved.
“It’s great that the Government has recognised that Humpback whale mothers and calves need protecting in Camden Sound but the calving grounds extend all the way south to Broome and there will be no such protection outside the marine park,” Mr Environs Kimberley Director, Martin Pritchard said.
“If an industrial port is built at James Price Point for the gas then Humpback mothers and calves will be at extreme risk from the thousands of vessels that would be exporting gas and servicing the port,” he said.
The Pew Environment Group said the announcement had moved the region a step closer to becoming an international tourism and conservation icon alongside the Great Barrier Reef.
"Sanctuaries are critical for protecting feeding and breeding areas and an estimated 22,000 mothers and baby whales now have a safe and secure home during WA’s winter months," director of the Pew Environment Group’s Oceans to Outback Program Barry Traill said.
"The opportunity now exists to create a Great Kimberley Marine Park, jointly managed by Traditional Owners, which would establish the waters along the Kimberley coast as an international icon for tourism and conservation alongside the world famous Great Barrier Reef.
The WA Government’s announcement of the new Camden Sound Marine Park provides further evidence for the Federal Government to finalise its plans for a network of marine protected areas in deeper waters away from the coast, Dr Traill said.
The marine park will be created by mid-2012 followed by gazettal of the zone boundaries later in the year.