Top End conservationists, fishers and Traditional Owners have welcomed the Federal Government’s budget allocation to marine protection in the Northern Territory, but have warned that a greater investment is needed if we are to secure the unique cultural, conservation and fishing values of the Top End’s coasts.
The Federal Government has recognised the urgent need to keep our Top End coasts healthy and have invested $2.8 million in NT marine protection, with a proportion to be allocated to Limmen Bight Marine Park in the Gulf of Carpentaria*. It is a win-win for fishing, culture and conservation.
Katherine resident and avid fishermen, Ben Rosevear, said "Limmen Bight Marine Park in the Gulf of Carpentaria is one of the Territory’s greatest coastal treasures.
"I’ve been visiting Limmen Bight for almost 30 years. Like me, people travel for hundreds and even thousands of kilometres to get to one of the most alive places in the Territory. Extensive river systems, mangroves, sea grass and reefs are the breeding grounds for this amazing place which is brimming with life, and importantly, fish!
"But it is also a great experience for people who don't fish. It’s a twitcher’s paradise, with the bird life as varied as the species underwater. There’s fun and adventure for all the family in visiting the pristine islands and beaches.
"A well-managed and well-funded marine park in Limmen Bight will not only ensure we’ve got great fishing for the future, it will also become a powerful tourism drawcard and that’s great for the Territory economy and jobs.
"My long term dream is to operate a small tour vessel for exploring and experiencing the outstanding nature and culture at Limmen Bight" Mr Rosevear said.
David Barrett, a sea ranger who works the waters of Limmen Bight, said "the Marra are saltwater people and have managed this sea country according to our customary responsibilities for many thousands of years.
"We want to see local Marra Aboriginal rangers employed and delivering effective land and sea management programs. This is for the benefit of future generations of Marra people, future generations of Territorians, and all Australians.
"We welcome visitors to our country. We do however have concerns about damage to sacred sites, rubbish, pollution and over-extraction. We are also concerned about the impacts of climate change and marine debris on our country. We want the marine park to help manage and prevent these threats" Mr Barrett said.
Adele Pedder, spokesperson for Keep Top End Coasts Healthy, said "our coasts are at the heart of our Top End lifestyle. But they are facing increasing pressures.
"This Federal money is a significant contribution, but a greater investment is needed if we are to secure the unique cultural, conservation and fishing values of the Top End’s coasts.
"Limmen Bight Marine Park is particularly important as a stronghold for marine life under pressure elsewhere, including dugongs, turtles and sawfish. With growing threats to the region from industrial expansion, pollution, and mangrove dieback, funding for protection is needed more than ever.
"There are many important areas along our Top End coastline that are worthy of improved management and protection so investment must extend beyond this one area" Ms Pedder said.
For comment: Adele Pedder [email protected]
*Media Release: $2.8 million to support Marra Traditional Owners to manage Sea Country. Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy. 14 December 2022. Available at https://ministers.pmc.gov.au/mccarthy/2022/2-8-million-support-marra-traditional-owners-manage-sea-country