Dear Territory Leaders,
I am pleased to see that the Gunner Government is today a step closer to delivering on its important election promise - ‘Protecting Limmen Bight: Protecting Jobs, Lifestyle and Culture.’ Putting a marine park management plan in place for this important area could safeguard the Roper River and Limmen Bight, but only if it is done well. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to its development with this submission.
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.
I urge you to consider my comments and concerns on the draft Limmen Bight management plan below:
- An effective marine park uses zoning - the Limmen Management Plan must use zoning as it’s main management tool, consistent with world’s best practice marine park management. The science of marine parks is strong in this regard, as is evidenced by the use of zoning in long standing marine parks around the country including at Cobourg, the Kimberley, Ningaloo and the Great Barrier Reef.
- Zoning must be science-based - best practice marine park management in Australia uses a mosaic of mutliple-use zoning to safeguard the values of the park and give long term certainty to users, for example recreational fishing, whilst securing the environmental values of the park such as ecosystem processes and species conservation.
- Management prescription should not be delayed for another two years - the draft plan delays implementation of on-water management in the form of zoning for two years. This is in addition to the three years we have waited for this draft to be produced. Pressures on the marine park values are increasing and we are seeing significant signs of decline at Limmen. We must move to put zoning in place now - rather than wait a further two years.
- Limited data is not an acceptable excuse for delaying the implementation of conservation measures - the draft management plan is committed to Ecological Sustainable Development (ESD). A core principle of ESD is that where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation. The NT coastline is vast and difficult to access. The result is that detailed scientific studies have not been conducted, and possibly never will. But we do know that the Limmen region is brimming with fish and wildlife, and it has been recognised to be of National and International conservation significance. We know the locations of highly biodiverse areas and important habitats. These include, for example, Maria Island in the north and the southern seagrass beds which is critical habitat for dugong and turtle. We also know what degrades these areas: pollution, climate change impacts like increasing sea temperature and acidity and mangrove dieback, destructive commercial fishing such as gillnets and trawling. Applications to conduct seabed mining already exist and there is an increasing interest from oil and gas companies. With the urgent need to act to protect this Territory icon, we must use the knowledge at hand to put effective protections in place. These can be monitored as part of standard marine park management processes and adapted over time as part of regular reviews of management.
- Traditional Owners must be the central partner in the management - I am concerned that the draft plan for Limmen Bight Marine Park does not provide detail on traditional owner led management nor does it recognise the Marra language name for their sea country in the park's name. The Marra people have ownership of the adjacent Marra land trust and intertidal area. It is likely that thee anticipated Marra ranger group will be expected to conduct the day to day management. Therefore they should be central in all decision making and management processes.
- Funding - to be effectively management, the marine park must be adequately funded and resourced.
I urge you to deliver a management plan with zoning that properly protects the Limmen Bight Marine Park, as was promised at the last election.
Please count this as my submission to the Limmen Bight Marine Park Management Plan consultation.
I look forward to your response and to working with you to develop a Management Plan with zoning that delivers the protection and management that the Roper and Limmen Bight region needs in order to secure its future.