Dear Territory Leaders,
I am pleased to see that the Gunner Government is closer to delivering on its important election promise - ‘Protecting Limmen Bight: Protecting Jobs, Lifestyle and Culture.’ I’m pleased that the Limmen Bight Marine Park Management Plan is due to be in place by March 2020.The Roper River and Limmen Bight region is iconic and desperately needs protection from growing threats.
Our rivers and coasts are the heart of our Top End lifestyle and have provided a continuous home to Aboriginal people for thousands of years. The mighty Roper is an iconic NT river with world-class fishing. It attracts visitors from around the globe. Limmen Bight Marine Park is one of the Territory’s most special natural places - a dugong, turtle and dolphin hotspot which produces most of the NT’s mudcrabs. The waters, fish and other wildlife move between the Roper and Limmen.
The Limmen Bight Marine Park is one of only two marine parks in the Northern Territory. It is an iconic area which is increasingly under threat. We need measures that not only manage these threats, but which take a proactive approach consistent with best practice marine park management, to secure the future of the Limmen region, it’s important cultural heritage and the much valued recreational fishing lifestyle. Now is our chance to shape the future we want for this special area.
While you’re considering the final Limmen Bight management plan, I urge you to:
- Let’s get on with the job - Delaying park management whilst more data is collected is unnecessary and risky. Some in the NT government argue that management action on the water must wait until detailed scientific studies have been completed. This is an excuse to delay important decisions. We already know a lot about Limmen, enough to create the marine park itself, years ago, and, enough for the region to receive national and international conservation recognition. Limmen is brimming with fish and wildlife, in an array of diverse environments including Maria Island in the north and the southern seagrass beds which are critical habitat for dugong and turtle. Given the urgent need to act to protect this Territory icon, we must use the knowledge at hand to put protections in place. These can be monitored and reviewed ongoing as part of standard marine park management processes.
- An effective marine park has zoning and it must be science-based - best practice marine park management in Australia uses mutliple-use zoning to safeguard the fishing, tourism, cultural and natural values of the park and give long term certainty to users. The Limmen Bight Marine Park Management Plan must use zoning as is applied in marine parks around the country such as the Kimberley, Ningaloo and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks, and here at home at the Cobourg Marine Park.
- Supporting the Marra Traditional Owners to manage sea country - The Marra people have actively managed the Limmen Bight Marine Park area according to custodial responsibilities for thousands of years, and they continue to have these responsibilities today. The Marra people should be central in management of Limmen Bight Marine Park and an Aboriginal ranger program established for the effective management of the park. The Marra people have suggested that the Limmen Bight Marine Park be called the Marranbala (Limmen Bight) Marine Park.
- Funding - the Marine Park plan of management must be adequately resourced, including funding for on-water management through the local Aboriginal ranger program.
I urge you to deliver a management plan with zoning that properly protects the recreational and guided fishing, tourism, cultural and natural values of the Limmen Bight Marine Park, as was promised at the last election.
I look forward to the release of the final Management Plan, and hope that it delivers the protection and management that the Roper and Limmen Bight region needs to secure its future.