Marine mile­stones

Pilbara News - - News - Ali­cia Per­era

This year marks 30 years of en­vi­ron­men­tally pro­tected sta­tus for two Coral Coast gems — the Nin­ga­loo Marine Park and Nin­ga­loo Com­mon­wealth Marine Re­serve.

Home to a large an­nual mi­gra­tion of whale sharks and the world’s long­est fring­ing reef at 260km, Nin­ga­loo Marine Park be­came only the sec­ond marine park in WA on April 3, 1987 and has since grown in pop­u­lar­ity with hun­dreds of thou­sands of tourists vis­it­ing each year.

The ad­ja­cent Nin­ga­loo Com­mon­wealth Marine Re­serve, which is also part of the Nin­ga­loo Coast World Her­itage area, had its 30th an­niver­sary on Sun­day.

Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife Nin­ga­loo Marine Park co­or­di­na­tor Peter Barnes said the area was so rich in marine bio­di­ver­sity that within 15 min­utes of board­ing a boat, visi­tors could see an­i­mals from sea tur­tles to dugongs, manta rays, dol­phins, killer whales and whale sharks.

He said it was par­tic­u­larly a key site for swim­ming with whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, from March to July when they re­li­ably come to feed in the area.

“We’ve built on this with the ex­hil­a­rat­ing swim­ming with hump­back whales trial, which is now in its sec­ond year,” he said of the park’s lat­est ini­tia­tive. “The in­au­gu­ral trial last year at­tracted 1644 peo­ple from Au­gust to Novem­ber and boosted tourism at Nin­ga­loo Marine Park as well as Exmouth and Coral Bay.”

Marine park sta­tus is sim­i­lar to that of na­tional parks and en­sures that scenic and bi­o­log­i­cally im­por­tant ar­eas of ocean and coast­line are pro­tected un­der the man­age­ment of DPaW.

The en­tire stretch of Nin­ga­loo Reef be­came a pro­tected site in 2004 when the marine park’s sta­tus was ex­tended south to Red Bluff.

Pic­ture: Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife

A diver snorkels with a whale shark at the Nin­ga­loo Marine Park.

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