Australia’s Coral Coast celebrates two UNESCO World Heritage status milestones in 2016 with its two listed sites – Shark Bay and the Ningaloo Coast.
Western Australia is home to three world heritage sites, with two located on the Coral Coast. On 25 June, the Ningaloo Coast will be celebrating five years of UNESCO World Heritage listed certification with Shark Bay recognising 25 years on 11 December 2016.
The World Heritage Listed (WHL) status reflects Ningaloo and Shark Bay’s significant international acclaim for the protection of an incomparable number of marine and terrestrial species with an extraordinary story of biogeography, exceptional natural features and water bodies, biological richness and environmental conservation.
To be included on the WHL, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the ten selection criteria. The Ningaloo Coast meets two and Shark Bay qualifies for four criteria. Both the Ningaloo Coast and Shark Bay contain:
(vii) superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
Whale Sharks are listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ and are a protected species in Western Australia, further adding to Ningaloo’s WHL. Ningaloo notes the world’s highest reliability rate of whale shark numbers and accessibility of interaction, noting a 92% swimming success rate between March to July (the Ningaloo whale shark season) 2015 and currently holding a 97% interaction rate for 2016.
(x) in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species.
Due to the estimated 300 to 500 Whale Sharks aggregation in the nutrient rich waters of the Marine Park, following the mass coral spawning, Ningaloo meets this criteria. Additionally the unusual diversity and number of turtle hatchings, 700 fish species, 300 coral and 155 sponge species as well as 600 crustaceans all add to its WHL status. The rare subterranean aquatic species in the flooded caves are taxonomically diverse and are the highest cave fauna diversity in Australia and one of the highest in the world. This includes the unique gudgeon fish (Milyeringa veritas) that is a living remnants from the Tethys Sea from the Mesozoic era (248 million to 65 million years ago).
In short, the area is recognised for the following Outstanding Universal Values:
Land and sea contrast − the arid earth colours of Cape Range provide a stark and striking contrast to the liquid turquoise and vibrant underwater world of Ningaloo Reef.
Habitat diversity– the rare mix of intact and diverse terrestrial, coastal and marine habitats form an incredible interconnected ecosystem.
Cape Range diversity − the rugged, limestone range and deep canyons host a remarkable array of plants, birds, reptiles and other wildlife, a high proportion of which are found nowhere else in the world.
Cape Range karst system − under the Cape Range Peninsula lies a complex limestone karst system that is home to a high diversity of unique, weird and wonderful cave creatures.
Ningaloo Reef diversity − is one of the longest and most pristine fringing reefs in the world. The reef’s extraordinary biodiversity includes more than 200 kinds of coral and more than 500 fish species, plus hundreds of other animal species including crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms and sponges.
Whale sharks and marine megafauna − one of the world’s largest, most reliable and best-managed whale shark aggregations is at Ningaloo Reef. Other internationally important and rare marine megafauna are found in the area includingwhales, dolphins, manta rays, turtles, dugongs, sharks, orcas and large fish such as tuna and billfish.
Turtle nesting – the area hosts one of the most important turtle rookeries in the Indian Ocean for three threatened species, the loggerhead, hawksbill and green turtles.
The World Heritage Listing in both Ningaloo and Shark Bay have cultivated local and national pride. Both WHL sites are located in precincts where tourism is their primary industry. Due to the listing, these World Heritage properties generate around $146 million in revenue each year, along with approximately 500 direct and indirect jobs.
Both World Heritage sites can be experienced as one holiday on Australia’s Coral Coast, time dependent. For more information or to plan your holiday, visit:www.australiascoralcoast.com.