Western Australia’s peak environment group has backed calls by scientists for the marine sanctuary areas around Rottnest Island to be significantly enlarged in order to protect the islands marine environment in the face of increasing boating and fishing pressures.
A proposal for a new marina and resort development on the island was released by the Rottnest Island Authority this week, identifying plans to cater for significantly increased numbers of boats visiting the island.
The proposal follows the release of a three-year survey of the island’s fish species by UWA researchers which found marine sanctuaries around the popular tourist destination are inadequate for high-risk targeted species.
More boats will increase fishing pressure
CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said “Increased numbers of boats at Rottnest will mean increased fishing pressure on an area where fishing is already taking its toll.
“It is critical that the no-take sanctuary zones around Rottnest are significantly increased in size so that the islands unique marine environment and fish stocks are not put at risk by more boats and more fishing.
“It is important that people can continue to visit Rottnest Island and enjoy snorkeling and diving, and catch fish in a sustainable way so that future generations can enjoy what we have taken for granted.
“While the marina itself may be able to be constructed in an environmentally sensitive manner and may help to manage uncontrolled boat use, the increased number of people visiting the island and increased numbers of boats will cause pressure on the islands ecosystems.
“As numbers of visitors increase, this will require careful management, additional resources and increased protection for the marine environment.
"We call on the State Government to insure that any increases in boat use and fishing pressure on Rottnest Island is met with increases in marine protection."
Study shows marine sanctuaries are already too small
UWA scientist Dr Timothy Langlois says their findings reveal Rottnest’s marine sanctuaries are not large enough to protect the full assemblage of species.
He says this is particularly the case for large-bodied species like pink snapper, dhufish and blue groper, which are vulnerable to fishing.
Most of the Rottnest sanctuaries are less than 1km2, and Dr Langlois says this may not be sufficient to retain large-bodied fish which tend to have large home ranges or are migratory.
“The size of sanctuaries influences how much protection they provide from the effects of fishing,” Dr Langlois says.
Opportunity for sustainable tourism showcase
Mr Verstegen said "If done right, this development could be an opportunity for the Island to become a sustainable tourism showcase.
"Enhanced measures to protect and look after the Islands unique environmental and cultural heritage should be incorporated in the plan.
"If a marina and resort is to be built at Rottnest Island it must be subject to the highest level of environmental assessment and include strong sustainability measures such as renewable energy and sustainable waste management."