The north-west is refuge for the largest population of humpback whales on the planet, estimated to be over 29,000 strong! Migrating from their Antarctic feeding grounds to the warm waters of the Kimberley to breed every winter, these waters provide a haven for a species that was once hunted to near extinction, as well as a host of other extraordinary diverse marine life.
Why is the North-West Marine Region Important?
The north-west region includes a diverse range of sub-tropical and tropical environments. The region is home to some spectacular ecological features such as the Rowley Shoals, the Kimberley coast, the Montebello Islands, Shark Bay, Ningaloo, as well as the Carnarvon Canyon and the carbonate banks, shoals and pinnacles of the north-west shelf – just to name a few.
These features provide vital habitat to threatened marine species, such as five of the world’s seven marine turtle species, dugongs, many species of sea snakes, sawfish and the world’s largest living fish – the whale shark.
World Heritage in the North-West
The north-west marine region includes two World Heritage sites – Shark Bay World Heritage Area and Ningaloo World Heritage Area.
Shark Bay World Heritage Area is world-renowned for its friendly resident bottlenose dolphins. It also includes the world’s largest seagrass meadow, which supports a large and healthy dugong population and an important nursery area for various fish and crustaceans.
Ningaloo Reef is one of the longest fringing coral reefs on Earth stretching for more than 260 kilometres. It is world-renowned for its wide diversity of life including many unique sponges, over 200 coral species, 600 mollusc species and more than 460 types of reef fish.
Shoals on the Shelf
The Rowley Shoals are a chain of coral atolls just off the edge of one of the widest continental shelves in the world. They are famous for their pristine coral gardens and diversity of marine life, which include 233 species of coral and 688 species of fish. Divers travel from all over the world to visit the area to see large schools of fish such as trevally, mackerel and tuna, and the giant potato cod and Maori wrasse. The sandy cays are used by nesting seabirds such as tropicbirds, wedge-tail shearwaters, white-bellied sea eagles, and ruddy turnstones. They are also important resting sites for migratory birds making their annual flight from as far as Siberia and south-east Asia.
Region Size Statistics
The north-west Marine Region stretches from the Western Australian-Northern Territory border through to Kalbarri in Western Australia. This is a network of Commonwealth marine parks and comprises 13 marine parks covering more than 335,437 km².