Fisheries Minister Jon Ford has increased community representation on the advisory committee that manages the Houtman Abrolhos Islands.
Six new members have been appointed to the Abrolhos Islands Management Advisory Committee, along with three returning members and chairman Peter Driscoll, whose term continues.
The new members include Perth Zoo Animal Health and Research Director Dr Helen Robertson; air charter operator-owner Caroline Pettet; charter vessel operator Leonie Noble; Tourism WA Industry Development and Visitor Servicing Executive Director Jennifer Duffecy; trucking company owner-operator Heather Jones and charter vessel owner-operator Jay Cox.
The returning members are recreational fisher Bevan Suckling; Abrolhos Islands commercial rock lobster fisher Kris Carlberg and pearl farm lease co-owner Martin Jurat.
Mr Ford said the committee traditionally had a strong focus on commercial rock lobster fishing. However, given concerns about impacts from rising visitor numbers and the expansion of tourism activity at the islands, he had increased the committee’s membership from nine to 10, to enlist more expertise in these areas and allow more local representation.
The Abrolhos Islands and their surrounding waters are an A-class reserve and a fish habitat protection area respectively. Both are vested in the Minister for Fisheries for the conservation of flora and fauna, tourism and purposes associated with the fishing industry.
The Minister said the islands’ special values included a rich marine ecosystem, combining both temperate (cool water) flora and fauna and tropical coral reef habitat; internationally significant seabird rookeries and some of WA’s most significant marine archaeological sites and early 17th century Dutch shipwrecks.
“The Department of Fisheries runs a research centre on Rat Island and has four dedicated field staff who spend 140 days a year on the islands,” Mr Ford said.
“The Abrolhos Islands offer a unique combination of marine and terrestrial diversity, as well as a rich history and important fishing grounds.
“The Department of Fisheries, which manages both the land and marine systems of the islands, is therefore taking steps to ensure that increasing visitor numbers are managed without causing detriment to the environment.
“For example, the department recently built 22 public moorings to reduce anchor damage while ensuring boat safety and access to dive sites and it also conducted a major maintenance program for the islands’ three airstrips.”
Mr Ford said the newly appointed advisory committee would continue the previous committee’s work in overseeing a review of the Abrolhos Islands Management Plan.
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