Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park
The Nyangumarta, Ngarla and Karajarri people have unbroken, deep spiritual connections to their sea country, which extends into Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park.
The marine park has significant cultural, natural, and socio-economic values to the Australian community.
The marine park protects habitat for endangered sawfishes, and boosts food supplies for the hundreds of thousands of migratory shorebirds that use the adjacent Eighty Mile Beach, one of the most important shorebird sites in Australia.
Natural oyster beds in the area provide crucial seed stock for the pearling industry.
The marine park is about half way between Port Hedland and Broome, adjacent to Western Australia’s Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park. The marine park covers 10,785 square kilometres, with depths from less than 15 metres to 70 metres.
The marine park is zoned as Multiple Use.
Charter fishing and recreational fishing are allowed in the marine park, though most people tend to stay a little closer to shore.
Each year the Australasian Wader Studies Group runs a shorebird monitoring expedition to the region, usually including sites at Eighty Mile Beach.
Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park is home to three species of sawfish:
- dwarf sawfishes
- largetooth sawfishes
- green sawfishes.
All are in serious danger of extinction.
Northern Australia is their last stronghold in the world, and Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park has a critical role to play in the survival of these species.
Sawfishes are related to sharks and rays, and are easy to identify. Each has a long saw-like snout with spikes along the edge.
The snout has thousands of sensors for detecting electrical signals from their prey, which includes crabs and fishes.
Despite their fearsome appearance, sawfishes are generally quite shy, spending much of their time on the muddy seafloor, either resting or searching for food.
They give birth to live young. The pups have a soft saw with a gel-like covering, so they don’t harm their mother during birth.
Unfortunately, due to earlier overfishing, sawfish populations were decimated and are yet to recover.
Today, catching sawfishes is illegal in Australian waters and in many other parts of the world, but many die as bycatch of commercial fisheries.
Their spiky snout means they tangle easily in nets and can be difficult to release safely.
Click on the map below to see what you can do in the Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park.
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