Three new marine parks created in Western Australia

The Australian government has established three new Kimberley marine parks totalling 600,000 hectares in the Buccaneer archipelago – a group of islands off the coast of Western Australia (WA). The parks consist of the Bardi Jawi Gaarra, Mayala and Maiyalam marine parks and bring the total area of conservation estate now created under the Plan for Our Parks initiative to over one million hectares.

In a Western Australia (WA) first, the parks have been co-designed and will be jointly managed by traditional owners, alongside the department of biodiversity, conservation and attractions.

Maiyalam marine park has been amalgamated into the Lalang-gaddam marine park, along with the Lalang-garram (Camden Sound), Lalang-garram (Horizontal Falls) and North Lalang-garram marine parks on Dambeemangarddee sea country.

Traditional owners have been living in these regions for tens of thousands of years, with the islands, reefs and intertidal systems home to many culturally important sites, and significant subsistence foraging and hunting habitats.

A sector support package for impacted commercial, charter and recreational fishers will be established prior to the commencement of the new marine parks’ boundaries on 1 July 2023.

The McGowan government’s Plan for Our Parks plans to create five million hectares of new national parks, marine parks and other conservation reserves.

“This is a landmark day in protecting areas of conservation and cultural significance – with the new marine parks co-designed and jointly managed by traditional owners in a WA first,” says premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan.

Environment minister Reece Whitby comments: “This region is home to an array of unique corals, whales and dugongs that feed here. The natural and cultural significance of these areas is astounding.”

Aboriginal affairs minister Tony Buti adds: “The sea country we are protecting with the creation of these three marine parks is ensuring that cultural practises that have existed for thousands of years remain protected.”

Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporation deputy chair Leah Umbagi says: “When we are on our own country we feel connected, we feel powerful, we feel rich because everything is around us.

“The marine park has given us protection of the country, which is good, and we’re really grateful that we get that protection and our rights and our say on what’s important to the country.”

New marine parks and protected areas are being created around the world in a bid to protect the fragile marine environment, with calls for additional parks to be designated.