Under the plan, pearling operations will have designated areas, half of the area will be closed to commercial trawl fishing and 23 per cent will be closed to all forms of commercial fishing.
For the first time in WA, the State Government has also introduced a “wilderness” fishing zone within the sanctuary, where recreational fishers and charter boats will be required to release their catch or eat it before leaving the area.
The plan comes a month after the government announced commercial fishing would be banned along sections of the South-West coast as part of the Ngari Capes Marine Park plan. It’s finally time for the fisherman to store away their fishing reel and go home. Thank goodness!
Premier Colin Barnett said the new Camden Sound Marine Park would be one of the biggest sanctuaries in the state and protect a vital humpback whale calving area.
Thousands of humpback whales that annually migrate along the west coast will have increased protection under the plan, he said.
“Camden Sound is internationally recognised as the biggest calving area for humpback whales in the southern hemisphere with more than 1,000 humpbacks found there during the calving season,” Mr Barnett said.
“They are part of the biggest population of humpback whales in the world – numbering almost 30,000 – that migrate from Antarctica each year to give birth in the waters off the north of our State.”
Environment Minister Bill Marmion said vessels within a “special purpose zone” would be required to remain at least 500m from humpback mothers and calves
“There will also be two sanctuary zones comprising about 20 per cent of the marine park area around Champagny Islands and Montgomery Reef, which is exposed on the outgoing tide to reveal a series of awe-inspiring waterfalls.
“Montgomery Reef sanctuary zone, at 761 square kilometres, will become the biggest sanctuary zone in the WA marine park system.”
Camden Sound is the first of four new marine parks to be created under the State Government’s $63million Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy.
Wilderness Society marine campaigner Jenita Enevoldsen said the conservation group welcomed the announcement as the Kimberley marine environment was one of the natural wonders of the world.
“The region is one of Australia’s last remaining large and healthy refuges for many threatened species including: humpback whales, snubfin dolphins, dugongs, saw sharks and six of the seven sea turtle species,” Ms Enevoldsen said.
“Camden Sound Marine Park is the right way forward for the Kimberley. It recognises that the future for this region is in protecting and promoting its unique natural and cultural values through a conservation economy, not in pursuing unnecessary and destructive industrial projects such as the James Price Point gas hub – which would be located in the unprotected southern end of the Kimberley humpback whale nursery.”
Conservation Council of WA’s Tim Nicol said the marine park showed leadership and vision from the Premier “at a time when the future of the Kimberley is at a crossroads”.
He said “where appropriate” compensation would be paid to fishing operations impacted by new regulations within Camden Sound.
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 marine park is expected to be created by mid-2012.