WA Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) and the Western Australian Government have partnered to ensure science plays a key role in the preservation of marine waters in the Kimberley region.
The Kimberley Marine Research Program (KMRP) will undertake marine research to support management of the proposed State marine parks at Camden Sound, North Kimberley, Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach and the coastal waters outside of these parks.
Scientists from seven research institutions will work in collaboration with the WA government in research projects focused on marine science in the Kimberley region.
The coastal waters of the Kimberley are extensive, remote and ecologically complex, and scientific knowledge about most of the area is limited. Therefore much consideration has gone into choosing specific areas known to be ecologically complex and where institutions have recommended further research.
The current major uses of the Kimberley coastal waters are traditional Indigenous use, marine tourism, commercial and recreational fishing, pearling, aquaculture, oil and gas, and iron ore port facilities. The large area, small population, limited land access and remoteness has resulted in minimal anthropogenic disturbance to much of the Kimberley marine environment. This is unlikely to change significantly over the next five or so years, with marine tourism as the most likely major Kimberley-wide growth industry.
With consideration of the above, the KMRP Science Plan will focus on obtaining a regional perspective through two major areas of research.
a) Bio-physical and social characterisation – to provide the foundational datasets required for marine park and marine resource management as well as better understanding and managing current human impacts.
b) Understanding key ecosystem processes – to provide the scientific understanding of ecosystem functioning and response to a range of potential human impacts that are likely to arise in the future, including climate change.
Five major research themes are divided up into 13 different areas in which both government and organisations like WAMSI, IMOS, AIMS and CSIRO, Woodside, Western Australian Museum, and Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University, Curtin University, and UWA’s Oceans Institute will be completing and undertaking further study.
The five major research themes are outlined below:
1. Habitat mapping, biological survey, marine fauna distributions and associated biodiversity assessments.
2. Characterisation and predictive capacity of the nature and levels of human usage and potential impacts.
3. Characterisation, understanding and predictive capacity of key ecological processes.
4. Biological implications and potential adaptations to climate change.
5. Development of baselines, cost-effective indicators and methodologies for long-term.
The KMRP will receive $12 million over 6 years, from 2011–12 as a part of the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy with a primary focus on managing the proposed State marine parks at Camden Sound, North Kimberley, Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach.
The project includes $2.2 million in funding for IMOS for research infrastructure. In addition the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Fisheries will monitor and conduct research on the proposed Camden Sound and Eighty Mile Beach marine parks with a funding aid of $15.2 million over four years.
The Kimberley Marine Science Program will improve capacity to manage marine parks and reserves, manage human impacts and predict risks in the coastal waters of the Kimberley.
It is expected to improve planning and management of tourism, recreational and commercial fisheries, pearling and aquaculture with enhanced Indigenous knowledge and participation in marine management.
In addition, research will aid in the uptake of marine science knowledge in policy planning and improved collaboration in marine science between State and Commonwealth agencies, universities, industry and NGOs in Western Australia.
Despite total investment of State and Commonwealth governments exceeding the $14.2 million WAMSI/IMOS investment, the total area of coastal waters is too large to investigate in its entirety.
Proudly supported by the Western Australian Government as part of the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy.