Survey indicates strong support for Kimberley coast protection

September 13, 2016

Kimberley coastlineResearch by Murdoch University indicates strong public support for protecting and conserving much of the Kimberley coastline.

Dr Jennifer Strickland-Munro and her research team conducted an online survey of more than 370 people to find the majority placed a high value on conservation and protection across the coast, including sites not covered by Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Increased Aboriginal management was also highly valued.

The survey results should be considered in the future planning strategies and management of the Kimberley coast and marine environment, said Dr Strickland-Munro.

Two marine parks have been established along the coast; at Eighty Mile Beach and Lalang-garram/Camden Sound with proposals for three more at Roebuck Bay, Horizontal Falls and North Kimberley.

The Kimberley MPAs are managed for multiple uses including biodiversity conservation, Aboriginal culture and heritage, nature-based tourism, commercial fishing and aquaculture, science/education, recreation and recreational fishing.

The survey asked respondents to place markers on a map to show the coastal and marine areas they valued along with their management preferences for the region. The results showed there were no unvalued places along the entire Kimberley coast.

“We also found that pro-conservation preferences dominated, but significant differences in responses suggest the potential for conflict over future management,” said Dr Strickland-Munro.

Fifteen per cent of the preferences mapped in the survey were pro-development, with resource related preferences supporting commercial fishing, new port and oil and gas developments, said Dr Strickland-Munro.

She added many value and preference hotspots were located outside the existing and proposed MPAs, including the northern tip of the Dampier Peninsula, the Buccaneer Archipelago and King Sound near Derby.

“Our findings reinforce the importance of taking a broader, comprehensive and regional view to marine conservation,” she said.

“In Australia, as elsewhere in the world, marine and coastal management have struggled to include diverse values, knowledge systems and cultural contexts. These social elements of planning are much more challenging to include compared with the biological and physical attributes of MPAs.

“MPAs can be politically-driven in their boundaries and zoning or these processes may not provide the time or resources for significant stakeholder involvement during planning phases to ensure lasting public support.

“The participatory mapping we used in our survey can be a powerful tool to help address this issue, connecting resource users, planners and managers.

“Our research contributes to marine spatial planning, which helps to identify potential conflicts among users and is particularly useful for large areas like the Kimberley that contain both State and Commonwealth jurisdictions.”

The study is part of the Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s Kimberley Marine Research Program. For more information about the study, contact Dr Strickland-Munro at

An article on Dr Strickland-Munro et al.’s findings has been published in the journal Marine Policy.

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