Monday, January 28, 2013

National marine parks protect Horizontal Falls

The Kimberley's famous Horizontal Falls site will be protected through the creation of a 160sqkm national and 3000sqkm marine parks, the State Government said today. But existing iron ore mines on Koolan and Cockatoo islands will continue to operate.

Both parks will be Class A reserves providing "the highest possible protection" for natural and cultural sites, Environment Minister Bill Marmion said in a statement this morning.

The Horizontal Falls marine park will cover nearly 3000sqkm south of Camden Sound, including Talbot, Collier and Doubtful Bays and Walcott Inlet. The park will protect coral reefs, dolphins, and mangrove systems, he said. But the reserve will continue to be used for recreational fishing and tourism, Mr Marmion said. "Existing pearl leases will remain and the creation of the marine park will help ensure continued high quality water for pearling," he said.

The Great Kimberley Marine Park will now stretch 26,000sqkm from Horizontal Falls to Cape Londonderry. The park will be jointly managed by traditional owners the Dambimangari people, and Indigenous land use and joint management agreements will be negotiated and draft management plans for both areas will be released for public comment," Premier Colin Barnett said.

Final borders will be determined after consultation with traditional owners and other stakeholders, the statement said. Conservation groups largely welcomed the move. "The coastline and marine environment surrounding Horizontal Falls contains an incredible variety of marine life and coastal features, many of which are not yet fully known to science,” Conservation Council WA director Piers Verstegen said. "Today’s announcement recognises that some places in Western Australia are too precious to lose.”

The Pew Environment Group spokesman John Carey said the new park “provides a balance to the rapid spread of mining and other industrial development.”

But conservation group Environs Kimberley claimed the planned industrial port at James Price Point about 200km south west of the new park undermined the Government’s environmental protection credentials. "We welcome this new initiative as a small step forward for a Great Kimberley Marine Park but the Premier needs to understand that if James Price Point goes ahead then the integrity of this coast will be destroyed," Environs Kimberley Executive Director Martin Pritchard said.

Source: The West Australian

Photo courtesy of Harclade via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)