About the theme


In Australia, coastal and marine environments are highly valued for the range of cultural, traditional, commercial and recreational opportunities they provide. The Kimberley coast represents a remote area that has been used by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years for subsistence and cultural activities with more recent uses including pearling, commercial fishing, mining, oil and gas, aquaculture, tourism and recreational activities.

In 2011, the WA State government committed to the creation of a network of marine protected areas across the Kimberley in recognition of the unique marine and coastal values of the region and to ensure their sustainable management and conservation. To achieve this goal, and understanding  of the spatial and temporal extent of human use is necessary for appropriate management of the coastal waters of the Kimberley.

This project sought to assess patterns of human use at several scales across the Kimberley marine and coastal environment, including the potential for impacts on coastal habitats from these activities.


  • Benchmark the spatial and temporal distribution patterns of boat and shore based human use in coastal waters of the Kimberley.
  • Examine the potential impacts of these human activities along the Kimberley coast


  • Monthly aerial surveys were conducted from King Sound to Port Hedland to document human use of the coastal waters and shores remotely by recording: access tracks, boats, trailers, cars, coastal campsites and activities. Exploratory aerial surveys were undertaken to provide an understanding of human use across the vast central and eastern Kimberley.
  • A review of potential impacts from recreational and tourism activities was undertaken for the Kimberley coast.
  • Recreational fishing pressure was evaluated on a local scale using remote camera surveillance of a boat ramp.
  • The cumulative visitation by expedition cruise vessels across the Kimberley region was assessed using a desk top study of number and passenger capacity of expedition vessels along with their proposed itineraries.


  • Current human impacts and risks have been identified and can be better predicted in the coastal waters of the Kimberley.
  • Improved capacity to plan and manage the Kimberley marine parks and reserves based on seasonal use patterns identified in human activity.
  • Improved knowledge transfer of social values and human impacts and uptake into policy, planning and management in Western Australia.
  • Protocol to design and undertake aerial surveys of human activities in coastal and nearshore areas including use of commercially available software to record data
  • A cost-effective desktop survey method to monitor tourist visitation by expedition cruise vessels based on Kimberley coast itineraries
  • Techniques and protocols for remote camera surveillance of vessel launches at boat ramps as an indicator of recreational vessel use

Project News

Aerial surveys generate first human activity maps for the Kimberley coast

Broome boat ramp study indicates boating popularity

Human use study confirms Kimberley’s top tourist cruise destinations

Researchers take a snapshot of how we use the Kimberley coast

ABC TV news coverage of coastal use survey



Is the Kimberley coast still a pristine wilderness? (2017 WAMSI Research Conference)

Benchmarking human use of Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park prior to implementation of the management plan. (2015 WAMSI Research Conference)


Program: Kimberley Marine Research

Location: Kimberley Coast; Eighty Mile Beach to Northern Territory border

Theme Leader: Lynnath Beckley, Murdoch University


Final Report