Roebuck Bay Working Group
Recognising that Roebuck Bay was without management 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 values based community driven planning process to protect, restore and maintain the catchment into the future. The RBWG, a not-for-profit community based group of 45 members, won a State Coastal Award in 2007 and was a finalist in WA Regional Achievement and Community Awards in 2012.
With a strong emphasis on partnerships, the RBWG works with landholders, community groups, non-government organisations, scientists, conservation groups, industry local, state and federal government to contribute to management planning and affect change ‘on-ground’ to protect, restore and maintain Roebuck Bay.
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.
Yawuru people have been members of the RBWG since its inception. Yawuru Traditional owner Neil McKenzie, speaking at a WA coastal conference in 2005 captured the diversity of values that 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 WA Government in 2010, has resulted in the creation of a Roebuck Bay coastal conservation estate and proposed Roebuck Bay Marine Park. The conservation estate which includes the intertidal zone, is being jointly managed by the Yawuru Corporation, DEC and Broome Shire for the purposes of conservation, recreation and customary Aboriginal use. The conservation estate covers a large part of the Yawuru coastline between its most northern boundary at Willie Creek to its most southern boundary below Eco Beach. Please respect Roebuck Bay as you will be respecting Yawuru culture »
Bounded to the north-west by the township of Broome 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 and bird watching, and to draw inspiration for music, art, photography and literature.
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 producing the largest pearls in the world. Subsequent trade includes fuel imports for the growing region, livestock export, cruise ship tourism, commercial fishing and more recently, the oil and gas industry. In a historic decision, Broome Port has agreed to hand over 50 percent of its gazetted port land (with high environmental and cultural/heritage values) to be jointly managed by Yawuru, DEC and the Shire – with DEC the lead agency.