Ningaloo Marine Park is an important feeding and breeding area for manta rays, sea turtles, dugongs, sea birds and several different cetaceans such as humpback and southern right whales. Yet it is perhaps most renowned for the annual appearance of the world’s largest fish, the highly vulnerable, filter-feeding whale shark!
Why is the Ningaloo Marine Park important?
World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is one of the longest fringing (close to shore) coral reefs on our blue planet. Situated 1200 kilometres north of Perth on WA’s mid west coast, Ningaloo Reef compares to the Great Barrier Reef in its outstanding beauty and species diversity. Stretching over 240 kms, Ningaloo Reef is a fringing coral reef system which skirts the Cape Range limestone peninsular, and never extends more than a few kilometres offshore.
Ningaloo’s special wildlife & habitats
This stunning reef system is highly diverse – brimming with life where the southern temperate waters off the Southern Ocean meet the northern tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. A multitude of marine wildlife lives in and around the reef, including many endangered marine species. These include:
- The filter-feeding whale shark;
- Manta rays;
- Sea turtles;
- Sea birds; and
- Several different cetaceans such as humpback, southern right whales, and orcas (killers whales).
The reef and adjacent terrestrial limestone (or karst) system create a highly diverse land/sea interface. Over 200 coral species, 600 different molluscs, and around 500 species of fish occur in the region, many relying on the reef lagoon as an important nursery ground.
Exmouth Gulf – Ningaloo’s Nursery
Exmouth Gulf is a rare and precious estuarine system in Australia’s northwest, habitat for fish and crustacean nurseries, and where humpback whales come to give birth, rest and nurse their calves. Surrounded by mangroves, white beaches and rugged ranges, it’s home to hundreds of incredible species of sea life. It is crucial to the health of the nearby Ningaloo Reef.
But Ningaloo’s nursery is now under threat with planning amendments that may soon open the gate to industrialisation on the shores of Exmouth Gulf. If you love Ningaloo, it’s time to step up again and defend it.
AMCS and the protection for Ningaloo
The main uses of the Ningaloo region are tourism and fishing. Ningaloo’s remoteness has meant that it has been historically relatively protected from human pressure. Compared to other reefs, Ningaloo is still in good condition. Its ecological integrity will be crucial in the face of predicted threats from increased ocean acidity, rises in sea surface temperature and more intense storm activity.
In 2004, in response to an overwhelming surge of public support rejecting a mega development proposal, the WA Government announced that 34% of Ningaloo Reef would be protected in ‘no-take’ reserves, or marine sanctuaries.
Then in June 2011, in a victory for people power and positive change, the Ningaloo Coast was given World Heritage status by the United Nations. After a long campaign by AMCS, our Patron Tim Winton, fellow conservationists and the community, this iconic part of WA has finally received the global recognition it deserves. World Heritage protection also means its extraordinary ecological values must be fully protected from threats such as oil and gas drilling.