From Shark Bay in Western Australia to the Great Australian Bight in South Australia, our south-west marine parks contain critical habitats for threatened and endangered species, like the southern right whale.
The South-West Marine Park area also has the most southerly range of major tropical coral reefs anywhere in the Indian Ocean.
More than 80% of the fascinating ocean life in these waters is found nowhere else on Earth! This has major implications for climate change adaptation as species shift southwards away from warming tropical waters.
Why is the South-West Marine Region Important?
The south-west region is bursting with highly endemic marine life, with over 80% found nowhere else on Earth. This unique wildlife is sustained by the Leeuwin current which brings tropical and temperate species together, creating abundant species diversity. There are plenty of recent species discoveries and no doubt many new discoveries will occur into the future.
Western Australia is home to 46 shark species, 24 of which are believed to live nowhere else on Earth – the south-west is a shark paradise. They include the dwarf spotted wobbegong and the floral banded wobbegong, with dusky whalers and whiskery sharks swimming among the region’s spectacular submerged mountain ranges, abyssal plains and cool coral reefs.
A third of the world’s whale and dolphin species live here too. Humpbacks and right whales come here to rest and breed after travelling from their southern feeding grounds in Antarctica. Mighty blue whales migrate to an undersea canyon – the Perth Canyon – that is bigger than even the Grand Canyon itself! It’s one of only two known feeding grounds in Australia for these critically endangered blue whales. Here sperm whales dive deep in pursuit of their prey, the mysterious giant squid.
Learning from our past mistakes
Way down south, near Australia’s last whaling station, lie the Albany Canyons, where Southern right whales appear each year to breed in the cool waters between the canyons and the coast. So named because they were the ‘right’ whale to hunt, these gentle giants are still recovering from heavy hunting pressure with only 1,500 individuals thought to exist off the southern coast of Australia.
In the south-west a small colony of fur seals is still recovering from near extinction from the commercial sealing industry in the 19th century and the endemic Australian sea lion remains in dire straits.
Region Size Statistics
Extending from Shark Bay on the mid Western Australian coast to the South Australian border, the south-west covers 1.3 million square kilometres. This is a huge area, four times the size of the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.