Roebuck Bay Working Group

Recognising that Roebuck Bay was without management Remarkable Roebuck Bay 'A Biodiversity Hospot'plans to protect its high values into the future, the Roebuck Bay Working Group (RBWG) formed in Broome in 2004, with the objective of developing a community driven planning to protect, restore and maintain the catchment into the future. The RBWG, a community group of 36 members, won a State Coastal Award in 2007 and a WA Regional Achievement and Community Award in 2013.

RBWG has a strong emphasis on partnerships, working landholders, community groups, scientists, conservation groups, industry and government to contribute to management planning and affect on ground change to protect, restore and maintain Roebuck Bay.

Environmental Values

Declared a Ramsar site in 1990 and listed on the National Heritage Register in 2011, Roebuck Bay is of international importance for at least 20 species of migratory shorebirds and as a site in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Roebuck Bay is a tropical marine embayment with highly biologically diverse intertidal mudflats. Dugongs, Green turtles and rare Australian snubfin dolphins regularly feed on the extensive seagrass meadows. Roebuck Bay is a major nursery for marine fishes and crustaceans and supports an exceptionally high diversity of benthic invertebrates (est. between 300 – 500 species), placing it amongst the most diverse mudflats in the world. Indeed, Roebuck Bay’s tidal range is so large, it exposes a staggering 160 km² of mudflats, with tides travelling at up to 20cm/sec mid cycle.

Indigenous values

Yawuru people have been members of the RBWG since its inception. Yawuru Traditional owner Neil McKenzie, speaking at the 2005 WA coastal conference captured the diversity of values Roebuck Bay holds: “Roebuck Bay means many things to many people – to some it’s an ancestral home to which they have continuing responsibilities and a place to hunt, fish and collect shellfish; to others its importance lies in its status as one of the most important migratory shorebird sites in Australia. For many it is a place to relax and unwind; or earn a living from fishing, hovercraft rides, pearl farming and shipping.”

The signing of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement between Yawuru native title holders and the State in 2010, has resulted in the creation of a Yawuru Birragun Yawuru Conservation Estate and a Yawuru Nagulagun Roebuck Bay Marine Park (October 2016).  The ten year marine park management plan covers 78,840ha from Gantheaume Point to Cape Villaret. The Yawuru Nagulagun Marine Park will be jointly managed by Parks and Wildlife and the Yawuru Registered Native Title Body Corporate, providing a boost for conservation, tourism and jobs for Yawuru people to manage their sea country. The Class A Marine Reserve has seven management programs with prioritised strategies.

The Birragun Conservation Park covers 19,120ha of land outside the Broome townsite and includes parts of the Roebuck Bay Ramsar site and National Heritage area. The conservation park will be jointly managed for the purpose of conservation, recreation, and traditional and customary Aboriginal use by Parks and Wildlife and Yawuru Registered Native Title Body Corporate.

Community Values

Bounded to the north-west by Broome township and Sandy Point to the south, Roebuck Bay is intrinsic to the recreational life of residents and visitors as a favourite place to go fishing, bird watching and to draw inspiration for music, art, photography and literature.

Commercial Values

Broome Port of Pearls, located in Roebuck Bay was built in 1965, with an extension of 148 metres added onto the existing structure in 2006.  Broome Port’s early trade was based on  pearl shelling which has evolved into a world renowned pearl aquaculture industry.  Subsequent trade includes fuel imports for the growing region, livestock export, cruise ship tourism, commercial fishing and more recently, the oil and gas industry.