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It was standing room only last Friday for a timely forum on Natural Resource Management (NRM) at the Houtman Abrolhos islands.

The Conservation Coucil of WA (CCWA) was supported by the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council (NACC) and Central Regional TAFE’s Batavia Coast Maritime Institute (BCMI) in the organisation and delivery of a forum aimed at highlighting the unique NRM value and rich heritage of these islands and discussion of some of the imminenet changes that will impact these values.

Following a warm Welcome to Country by Amangu Woman Donna Ronan and didgeridoo performance by Donna’s son, Leroy Shiosaki , the Regional Manager for Midwest and Gascoyne from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), Ron Shepherd, gave a presentation on the State Government’s vision for the future of the Abrolhos islands.

Of particular note in this presentation was the significant investment by the McGowan Government in getting the ball rolling towards development of an Abrolhos Islands National Park and their willingness to go about this in a carefully planned manner with extensive stakeholder consultation.

Presentations followed on fisheries management and the new Midwest Aquaculture Development Zones (Ron Shepherd) and environmental management considerations for an expanded tourism industry (Sue Hancock, Regional Manager of Parks and Visitor Services, Dept of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions).

This led to an interactive discussion and a panel of NRM experts taking questions from the audience. Only half an hour was available for this session although judging from the audience enthusiasm it could have gone on much longer.

After lunch, the audience was treated to a range of presentations from learned NRM researchers and managers working on the Abrolhos Islands, namely Chris Surman (Halfmoon Biosciences), Nic Dunlop (CCWA), Maryke Gray (BCMI), Scott Evans (DPIRD) and Anthony Desmond (DBCA).

NACC’s Coastal and Marine Program Coordinator Mic Payne was the MC at the event and said it was an honour to officiate a forum with such an esteemed list of speakers.

“I don’t know how long it has been since so many Abrolhos Islands experts were together on the same bill,” he said.

“The highlight for me was the sense of enthusiasm and cooperation in the room – everyone was on the same page in wanting a careful transition of the Houtman Abrolhos into a world-class National Park without the loss of the NRM value that make it so special and attractive.”

Finally, a great new resource document, Sentinel Seabirds: A guide to using marine birds to monitor marine ecosystems, was launched at the forum. However, more about that next week….


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