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A group of snubfin dolphins playing at Roebuck Bay, Western Australia © Paul Gamblin

A group of snubfin dolphins playing at Roebuck Bay, Western Australia © Paul Gamblin

Roebuck Bay could become Western Australia’s least-protected Marine Park

23 Jun 2015

  • climate change
  • dolphins
  • kimberley
  • marine protected areas
  • marine species
  • western australia

An alliance of environment groups welcomed the announcement today of a draft management plan for the Roebuck Bay Marine Park, but the plan has raised concerns that snubfin dolphins and other marine life would be left at risk.

The new park in Roebuck Bay, to be jointly managed with the Yawuru Traditional Owners, would ban commercial gillnet fishing and mining but would have no marine sanctuary zones. Marine sanctuaries are areas within a marine park that are protected from all fishing and mining. These zones help protect threatened species and have been shown to boost the number, size, and diversity of marine life.

“Roebuck Bay is internationally important for migratory birds and has the world’s densest remaining population of snubfin dolphins, yet it is set to become the least-protected marine park in Western Australia,” said Martin Pritchard, director of Environs Kimberley. “Stopping commercial fishing and mining in the bay is good, but marine sanctuaries are essential to successful marine parks.”

“Building on this draft plan, we are launching a campaign in Broome and Perth to urge the Government to complete the park with a marine sanctuary zone. Broome deserves a world-class marine park—and that means putting a sanctuary there,” he said.

“The science tells us that robust sanctuary zones are needed if we are to effectively conserve marine life in a park,” said Darren Grover, National Manager – Species, Terrestrial and Indigenous Partnerships for WWF-Australia. “The WA Government now has a great opportunity to protect Roebuck Bay’s marine life using the best scientific and cultural knowledge.”

“Sanctuaries in marine parks at Coral Bay, Exmouth, and Busselton have been shown to protect the environment and go hand-in-hand with great fishing and a diverse local economy,” said Jenita Enevoldsen, the Wilderness Society’s state director.

“The Barnett Government has a strong record of creating marine sanctuary zones in newly designated marine parks at Ngari Capes, Eighty Mile Beach, and Camden Sound,” said Tim Nicol, who manages the Kimberley project for The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Roebuck Bay’s outstanding marine life and its vital breeding habitat for recreational fishing species—including threadfin salmon and mudcrabs—is no less important. Roebuck Bay needs to be protected in science-based sanctuary zones.”

Roebuck Bay’s mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and mudflats are internationally recognised under the Ramsar Convention as critical habitat for hundreds of thousands of migratory shorebirds. This area is also home to snubfin dolphins, Australian humpback dolphins, dugong, and turtles.

All the other 11 marine parks in WA’s oceans have marine sanctuary zones. The only existing marine parks without sanctuaries are in rivers: the Swan River and Walpole-Nornalup estuaries.

The draft plan released today will be out for public consultation for three months.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: 
Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager