Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks

Recfishwest acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land and sea, and pay our respect to Elders past, present and future. We recognise the strength, resilience and capacity of traditional custodians in managing and caring for the land and sea. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to life in Western Australia.

In December 2020, then-WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson announced plans for three new marine parks in the Buccaneer Archipelago in the West Kimberley. The proposed marine parks were co-designed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and the Traditional Owners of the Bardi, Jawi, Mayala and Dambimangari sea country.

On 31 Jul7, 2022, following a public consultation process, the Government unveiled final plans for the three marine parks – you can find out more about how the new marine parks will impact on fishing here [link to What the Buccaneer Archipelago Marine Parks will mean for your fishing page here].

Once implemented, the marine parks will be jointly managed by DBCA and the Traditional Owner.

What the new marine parks will mean for fishing once implemented

Find out more

Why the marine parks matter for recfishers

Recfishwest believes the management of WA’s aquatic resources – such as those in the Buccaneer Archipelago – should  incorporate the rights, interests, aspirations and culture of all stakeholders including Traditional Owners.

Recreational fishers share many of the same values as Traditional Owners – we want a healthy environment with abundant fish stocks and to enjoy fishing with our families and friends.


Recfishwest’s role in the public comment process

As the State’s peak recreational fishing body our purpose is to ensure great fishing experiences for all in the WA community forever.

Our commitment is to protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the community.

In this capacity, our role in the proposed marine parks public comment process was to:

  • Meet with DBCA and Traditional Owners to gain a better understanding of what the proposed park is to achieve and discuss the importance of the waters in the proposed marine park to recfishers, particularly from a local perspective.
  • Be guided by the Broome, Derby, Kimberley and wider fishing communities and work for the best outcome possible for ongoing recreational fishing access. It should be noted we are not part of the Government and our independent, apolitical status places us in the best position to freely represent the interests of the recreational fishing sector.
  • Regularly communicate with fishers to keep them up to date with opportunities to best engage in the process (see Proposed Buccaneer Archipelago updates below).
  • Provide clear and comprehensive advice on how best to make a submission to DBCA – see the submission guidelines section below.
  • Provide specific guidance and review individual or group submissions for anyone wanting a helping hand – you can contact Recfishwest directly if you would like assistance, please find contact details below.

Read the updates below:

9 March, 2021: Proposed Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks update

9 March, 2021

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland, Operations Manager Leyland Campbell and Operations Lead Matt Gillett  have met with members of the Broome and Derby fishing communities to listen to local views on the proposed Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks.

In addition, they also met with a number of representatives from the tackle industry, the local shires and from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

More than 240 local fishers attended sessions held at the Broome Fishing Club and the Mary Island Fishing Club, coordinated by Recfishwest.

Dr Rowland thanked the two clubs for hosting the events.

“Both forums were very constructive with local fishers keen to express their concerns about the proposed marine park,” he said.

Visit DBCA’s website to read more about the proposed marine parks in the Buccaneer Archipelago here

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland speaking with local fishers at the Mary Island Fishing Club in Derby last month.

This is what was heard:

  • There is a great deal of concern around the potential loss of fishing access along the Dampier Peninsula from Pender Bay on the western side all the way around to Cunningham Point on the eastern side, as well as the loss of access to important locations within the Dampier Archipelago, such as The Graveyard, Inland Sea and Robinson River;
  • There was also concern about the impact of displaced commercial fishing effort on places outside of the marine park such as Goodenough Bay, Valentines, Fraser River and Blue Holes;
  • There were very strong concerns from Derby community members around the loss of “liveability” from the town itself as a result of loss of fishing access in the archipelago;
  • Many fishers want to see the pristine environment of the archipelago protected and share concerns around how increased visitors will be managed to the Dampier Peninsula due to the upgraded Cape Leveque road;
  • Are there better or other ways to protect these areas?;
  • The lack of available science to justify proposed sanctuary zones;
  • There was a large appetite for having constructive discussions with the DBCA and Traditional Owner (TO) groups to better understand why the marine parks have been proposed in their current form;
  • Some found information provided in the draft plans complex and overwhelming, and expressed concern about the online feedback survey being confusing, repetitive and taking up too much time to complete;
  • Fishers felt they needed more time to understand the proposals so they are able to provide meaningful feedback into the process; and,
  • Many people had not heard about the proposed parks and queried the process used to develop the draft plans.
There is an appetite for constructive discussions to develop a better and more inclusive marine park management approach. Picture: Unreel Adventure Safaris

Having heard these views from local fishers and fishing stakeholders, for the next phase of the process Recfishwest has committed to:

  • Regularly communicating with fishers to keep them up to date with opportunities to better engage in the process;
  • Provide clear and comprehensive advice on how best to make a submission to DBCA. Recfishwest will be providing some guidelines on this on our website shortly, so there is no need to rush your submission;
  • Provide specific guidance and review individual submissions for anyone wanting a helping hand. Anybody who wishes to present their own personal or group submission to this process can take advantage of our experience and support in making this kind of submission and can contact Recfishwest directly if they would like assistance;
  • Approach DBCA to provide an opportunity for fishers in both Broome and Derby to ask questions directly to DBCA representatives about the proposed marine parks (more details to follow soon); and,
  • Meet with Traditional Owners and DBCA to gain a better understanding of what they want the proposed parks to achieve and discuss the importance of the waters in the proposed marine parks to recfishers, particularly from a local perspective.

What’s next?

Recfishwest will be back in Broome and Derby on 16, 17 and 18 March to meet with the DBCA marine park planners to understand what they want the marine parks to achieve and begin to identify a way forward that can meet all stakeholders’ needs.

Dr Rowland said Recfishwest would also be listening closely to Broome and Derby locals to ensure important fishing areas, key species and fishing values are well understood within the process.

The timeline below outlines other key dates in the coming months:

  • 16 March: Recfishwest will be attending DBCA information session for charter boat operators in Broome;
  • 17 March: Recfishwest to attend DBCA information session for fishing club committees. Recfishwest will be available to meet with fishers in Broome on this day;
  • 18 March: Recfishwest will visit Derby to continue conversations with local fishers, with a view to document key fishing areas and workshop potential alternative management arrangements;
  • Week commencing 19 April: Recfishwest will visit Broome and Derby to further consult with local fishers and fishing related business and operators;
  • 5 May: DBCA information session in Derby for local fishers; and,
  • 21 May: DBCA Submission period closes.

Want to get in touch?

Recfishwest welcome any questions or viewpoints you may have.

Please feel free to contact the team at the Recfishwest office on (08) 9246 3366 or drop Matt a line at matt@recfishwest.org.au.

There is a great deal of concern around the potential loss of fishing access. Picture: Unreel Adventure Safaris

31 March, 2021: Proposed Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks update

Recfishwest recently visited Broome for Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA’s) and the Traditional Owners’ information sessions about the proposed Buccaneer Archipelago Marine Parks.

This was followed by a visit to Derby to meet with some of the Mary Island Fishing Club members.

Some of the Mary Island crew who travelled to Broome to provide input into the proposed Buccaneer Archipelago Marine Park public comment process.

Several of the fishing club members took a couple of days out of their busy schedules to make the round-trip from Derby to Broome to participate in the information sessions and contribute to some of the constructive discussions with the Traditional Owners following the briefing around the proposed marine parks.

This showed the importance of accessing the archipelago for local fishers and how much they care. The presentations and discussions in the information sessions revealed a lot of common values shared between local recfishers and the Traditional Owners in wanting to look after the health of these waters and the fish populations within them.

Many of the key points we heard were very encouraging and enlightening:

  • Each of the Traditional Owner groups explained how the proposals are intended to protect the significant cultural values of the area including areas important for customary food and other resources, as well as culturally significant features such as cultural sites, reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove communities;
  • Traditional Owners also explained the need to protect intangible values such as those related to ceremony and oral histories;
  • All of the Mayala, Bardi Jawi and Dambeemangarddee Traditional Owners at the info sessions expressed their willingness to discuss and negotiate with local recfishing community representatives around different elements of the proposals;
  • A real take away from this session was that the current proposals are a starting point for discussion and not a “done deal”– a scenario which many in the community had feared;
  • The Traditional Owners are particularly concerned about the new Cape Leveque Road impacting on their privacy and ability to continue traditional cultural practices particularly within their sea country;
  • They described how the marine parks provide support for the continued exercise of native title rights recognising their ongoing connection to, and responsibility for Sea Country, while still seeking input from the wider community;
  • DBCA staff indicated that consultation with key stakeholders and fishing clubs would continue after the public submission period closes;
  • DBCA also undertook to provide a face-to-face information session in Derby specifically for local fishers;
  • Noting some people were struggling with the online public comment submission form, DBCA undertook to accept submissions through alternative, more accessible formats including through written statements via post or email;
  • The final session wrapped up with the Traditional Owners requesting preliminary input from fishers in the room as to areas of importance for fishing, which was provided, particularly for the eastern portion of the proposed park; and,
  • Traditional Owners groups were all genuinely interested in better understanding recreational fishing values in the park areas and were interested in further discussions on the areas important to local fishers.
Members of the Mary Island Fishing Club discuss with Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland where the best fishing locations can be found in the Buccaneer Archipelago.

Mary Island Fishing Club information forum

The day following the information sessions approximately 40 Derby fishers attended the session held at the club’s Elder Street HQ premises and we gave a verbal update on the status of the process and how they can best provide input.

At this session, Recfishwest spoke with fishers one-on-one about particular areas of importance within the proposed park area.

Some excellent feedback was provided which will allow Recfishwest to capture information such as the values for visiting particular areas, the species caught, how often places were visited and what other kinds of activities in addition to fishing are undertaken there.

This information will be highly valuable as part of the current feedback process and form part of Recfishwest’s submission to DBCA.

Recfishers value fishing access to remote places, like the Buccaneer Archipelago, highly. Credit: Unreel Fishing Charters

What’s next?

5 May: DBCA information session in Derby for local fishers;

11 June: DBCA submission period close.

2 June, 2021: Days let to have your say on the proposed Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks

Recfishwest is urging fishers to get their voices heard and get their submissions in to the proposed Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks public comment process before the June 11 deadline.

Recfishwest has been working closely with the Broome and Derby fishing communities since draft management plans for three marine parks in the Buccaneer Archipelago were released in December last year.

As they stand, the current proposals have caused a great deal of concern among the local fishing communities, as the planned zoning scheme would effectively remove access to 95 per cent of the safest and most valuable fishing spots in the archipelago.

It’s critical recfishers ensure decision-makers understand how important the Buccaneer Archipelago is for fishing experiences. Picture: Recfishwest

“Fishing is at the heart of these communities and it is clear to us from what we’ve heard taking away fishing access to these areas will threaten the fabric of community life,” Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said.

“This makes it really important for all local fishers and, anyone who has a vested interest in protecting fishing access in marine parks, to get their submissions in before the public comment period closes on 11 June.

“The best chance we are going to have as a fishing community of getting the best outcome for all stakeholders is by making sure decision-makers understand how important the Buccaneer Archipelago is for our fishing experiences.”

A spirited response from Broome and Derby fishing communities

Dr Rowland said Recfishwest has been really encouraged by the spirited response from the Broome and Derby fishing communities.

“I would like to personally thank them for the welcome we have been given when we’ve been in town and the impassioned feedback we have received,” he said.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland at the Buccaneer Archipelago. Picture: Recfishwest

Some of the consistent feedback Recfishwest heard includes:

  • The Buccaneer Archipelago and surrounding waters are a special place for fishing;
  • The draft plans propose to lock fishers out of 95 per cent of their most valuable fishing spots;
  • As an investment of taxpayers’ money in conserving the things we all care about, marine parks should result in positive outcomes for everyone;
  • Local fishers and fishing clubs are highly supportive of Traditional Owners and traditional knowledge playing a leading role in the management of these areas;
  • Fishers are more than happy to avoid areas where cultural activities requiring privacy are taking place;
  • Recreational fishing should be embraced within the park as it is a low-impact activity which can provide an excellent opportunity to collect additional data and engage park users about cultural values.

These are just some of the many comments Recfishwest heard, which it will use as the core for its own submission to DBCA and the Traditional Owners who co-designed the draft management plans.

The archipelago offers a wilderness fishing experience quite like no other. Picture: Andrew Rowland / Recfishwest

You can read the broader summary of what we heard from local fishers here

Simplifying the submission process

Another recurring theme from the local communities has been how complex the submission process is.

So to assist fishers making their submission, Recfishwest has developed:

  • A webpage you can click here to access with general guidelines to assist with creating a submission and a step-by-step guide through DBCA’s online submission process.
  • A submission template, link below, to set out a format to help fishers develop their submission.
  • You can also contact Recfishwest if you would like any additional guidance in making a submission.

Find Recfishwest’s submission template here

Dr Rowland said Recfishwest will continue to work hard to do everything we can to ensure a good outcome for the fishing community.

“We fully understand what is at stake here and how important it is for the local community to be able to maintain fishing access to many of the areas from where, under the current proposals, we would be locked out,” he said.

“There will be a way to go after the public comment period has closed and rest assured, as your peak body, we will continue to ensure the views of fishers are well represented to the end of this process.

Recfishwest Operations Lead Matt Gillett at Buccaneer Archipelago. Picture: Andrew Rowland / Recfishwest

“But we really need every one of you to make your voice heard on this through your submission, to get the best outcome we can for all involved.

“If you’re not a local fisher it’s still important to have your say.

“These management plans were developed with limited consideration of the things that are important for recreational fishing and it’s likely to set a precedent for future marine parks designs.”

What we heard from the fishing community

During the public comment period on the proposed marine parks,  we received a lot feedback from fishers. This feedback informed the core of Recfishwest’s submission (you can read our full submission to DBCA on the proposals above).

What we have heard from local and visiting fishers about the proposed Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks

Want to talk to us about the marine parks?

We welcome any questions or viewpoints you may have, so please feel free to contact us on 9246 3366 or email: matt@recfishwest.org.au