Kimberley Commonwealth Marine Park announced

annabelleIn the field

A humpback cow and calf playing to the south of Adele Island

Adele Island, a tiny speck on a marine chart to the north of One Arm Point, sits right at the centre of the newly released Kimberley Commonwealth Marine Park, a vast marine area that links the Kimberley coast with the newly created Camden Sound Marine Park. This new park, part of national network of marine reserves, comprises three different zones with various levels of restriction on activites, including oil and gas exploration and fishing.  Existing use, however,  is allowed.

A humpback cow and calf playing to the south of Adele Island

A humpback cow and calf playing to the south of Adele Island

To the south and southwest of Adele Island is a newly created Marine National Park zone (IUCN ll – coloured green on the map below), which precludes all forms of fishing, (apart from Aboriginal people’s right to non-commercial hunting and fishing under Native Title legislation). Fishing related tourism is allowed, however, in the Habitat Protection zone (yellow on the map).

Map of the Kimberley Commonwealth Marine Reserve

Map of the Kimberley Commonwealth Marine Reserve

 

These two areas encompass an area rich in shoals and patches, including Pitt and Alarm Shoals, Brue Reef, and Tasmanian Shoals  identified by Curt and Micheline Jenner and ourselves, Kimberley Whale Watching, as an important Humpback whale aggregation area.  Humpback whales are opportunistic feeders, and the reefs, shoals and patches are likely feeding areas for the humpbacks as they’re vital foraging areas for the seabirds that breed and roost on Adele Island and the Lacepede Islands.

A humpback cow and calf playing to the south of Adele Island

A humpback cow and calf playing to the south of Adele Island

Whiskered terns in pursuit of fresh fish.

Terns in pursuit of fresh fish.

A flock of Brown boobies leave Adele Island to forage for food. (Annabelle Sandes/© Annabelle Sandes | Kimberley Media 2012)

A flock of Brown boobies (Sula leucogaster) leaves Adele Island at dawn to forage for food.

Brown boobies and terns swoop on a school of fish to the south of Adele Island. (Annabelle Sandes/© Annabelle Sandes | Kimberley Media 2012)

These outer shoals, patches and reefs are teeming with marine life.  Below are epitokes, the larval stage of Nereid polychaetes, or worms, caught off the back of Kimberley Escape on our 2011 “Kimberley Whales and Reefs” expedition as they swarmed in glare of the decklights at night at the back of the boat.  Darting and weaving through the larval mass were Finny scad (Megalaspis cordyla), torpedo shaped pelagic fish which are an important component of the Malaysian and Indonesian fishery.

Epitokes, the reproductive stage of Nereid polychaetes, swarm in a jar on an expedition vessel at Adele Island.

Epitokes, the reproductive stage of Nereid polychaetes, swarm in a jar on an expedition vessel at Adele Island.

To the southwest of the Kimberley Commonwealth Marine Reserves lies the second northwest marine reserve, the Argo-Rowley Terrace Marine Reserve, taking in Clerke and Imperiuse atolls in the western Australian state Rowley Shoals Marine Park, and the Commonwealth Mermaid Reef  Marine National Nature Reserve.  The waters surrounding these three atolls are zoned “multiple use”, with few restrictions on oil and gas exploration.

Two Scuba divers explore Mermaid Reef at the Rowley Shoals. (Annabelle Sandes/© Annabelle Sandes | Kimberley Media 2010)

IUCN Definitions