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Ningaloo Coast World Heritage status

Posted on 13 April 2011

  • Ningaloo Atlas
  • Australian Institute of Marine Science

On 24 June 2011, the Ningaloo Coast in Australia was added to the World Heritage List, following the recommendations of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  A World Heritage site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as being of special cultural or physical significance, and it is the highest global recognition of the importance of a site.  However, World Heritage listing does not change the way lands and waters are managed or change existing land uses and activities.


World Heritage nomination

The Ningaloo Coast was nominated for World Heritage listing in January 2010 by the Australian Government with the support of the Western Australia Government (see attachment).

The Ningaloo Coast was nominated under three criteria:

Criterion (vii) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.

  • The Ningaloo Coast provides the best opportunity in the world to encounter whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), the world's largest fish, together with globally significant populations of iconic marine megafauna - manta rays, dugongs, marine turtles, humpbacks, other cetaceans, rays and sharks.
  • The property contains exceptional underwater scenery, including coral reef structures, marine invertebrates and marine megafauna, contrasting with the vivid colours of the arid terrestrial landscape.

Criterion (viii) to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.

  • The Ningaloo Coast is an outstanding example representing major biogeographic events in the history of life: increasing biological isolation, shifting continents and the record of climate change over time.

Criterion (x) to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

  • The Ningaloo Coast is a place of outstanding biological diversity, and has an internationally significant role in the protection of many important species, including the exceptional whale shark, which is a flagship for the health of the oceans.
  • The property includes highly significant subterranean and terrestrial ecosystems housing unique fauna, which have outstanding universal value from the point of view of science.


World Heritage listing

The 35th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee met in Paris (France) from 19 to 29 June 2011.  On 24 June 2011, the World Heritage Committee decided to inscribe the Ningaloo Coast on the World Heritage List, acknowledging it as one of the outstanding natural places in the world.

The Ningaloo Coast was inscribed on the World Heritage List for its natural beauty and biological diversity.  In particular, the Ningaloo Coast was included on the World Heritage list in recognition of its:

  • aesthetically striking coastal and terrestrial environment of Ningaloo Reef adjacent to Cape Range.
  • lush and colourful underwater scenery and its contrast with the arid and rugged land.
  • annual aggregation of whale sharks, one of the largest in the world.
  • important aggregations of other fish species and marine mammals.
  • high marine diversity, including an unusual diversity of marine turtle species.
  • rare and diverse subterranean creatures.
  • diversity of reptiles and vascular plants in the drylands.


Ningaloo Coast World Heritage boundary

The boundary of the Ningaloo coast World Heritage Area (over 600,000 hectares) includes (see attachment):

  • Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth and State waters).
  • Cape Range National Park.
  • Muiron Islands Marine Management Area.
  • Muiron Islands Nature Reserve.
  • Jurabi and Bundegi coastal parks.
  • Learmonth Air Weapons Range.


Use of the Ningaloo Coast

World Heritage listing does not change day to day life in Exmouth, Coral Bay and Carnarvon.  People can continue to enjoy fishing, camping, snorkeling, diving, hiking or exercising their dog in the World Heritage area.  Visitors and locals can continue to enjoy the range of activities available on the Ningaloo Coast.

World Heritage listing does create a requirement for development proposals that are likely to significantly affect the World Heritage values to be referred to the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.


Additional information on Australia's World Heritage listings and the nomination and approval process.