A re-elected Turnbull Government will immediately commit $100,000 to better understand the unique environmental values supporting potential protection of the magnificent orca hotspot near Bremer Bay.
The announcement was made today by Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, and the Federal Member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson.
Mr Hunt said the decision was the result of strong advocacy from local MP, Rick Wilson.
“We acknowledge the strong interest from the local community, the eco-tourism industry and the conservation sector and are actively looking at options for protecting the Bremer Canyon aggregations,” Mr Hunt said.
“If re-elected, we will immediately provide $100,000 under the National Environmental Science Programme to fund additional research into this unique marine area.”
Minister Hunt said prior to the caretaker period, he had already directed the Department of the Environment to:
- Undertake an assessment of the area’s ecology, biodiversity and conservation significance as a basis for considering options for further protection of the area.
- Consider options for strengthening the level of protection in the offshore region of the reserve by rezoning it as Marine National Parks Zone.
- Assess the merits of protecting the area to the west of the Bremer reserve, by employing the Conservation Zone provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 to initiate and frame this assessment.
“Importantly, the Government understands there are currently no plans for oil and gas exploration in the area and that past exploration leases over the area had recently been relinquished by industry,” Mr Hunt said.
“The Government is currently considering the outcomes of the independent review of the Commonwealth Marine Reserves and, with the help of this new research, will be formulating the best possible conservation outcome for the people of Bremer and the surrounding region,” he said.
Mr Wilson said he was delighted that the importance of the Bremer Canyon and Orca hotspot had been acknowledged and welcomed moves to look at formal protections for this unique site.
“This is a project I have been working on for some time, and have consulted widely with the Bremer Bay community, the Shire of Jerramungup, conservation and tourism interests and local professional fishermen.
“The Bremer Canyon is renowned for its large aggregations of marine life including, orcas, sperm whales, seals, sharks and giant squid,” he said.
“Over the summer period, these remarkable creatures converge in the area and display spectacular feeding behaviour.
“Ecotourism has been growing and the area has received international attention through a documentary in 2013 by local film-maker Dave Riggs and subsequent media coverage.
“Further research will not only help protect and enhance our knowledge of this remarkable area, it will help boost tourism and the local economy.”