My 19th birthday was definitely one to remember. I spent the day swimming with whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia (Back then I was living in Exmouth for a few months working with a whale shark research group). At one point there were two whale sharks swimming around in circles, checking each other out. After a few minutes the smaller one, a young male, had seen enough and with a single flick of his enormous tail sped off into the blue. As I watched him disappear, a manta ray sped past in the other direction.
Ningaloo is a very special place (and I’m sure John Bruno agrees with me, he’s been there more recently than me – lucky thing!) due in large part to its isolated location a long way from anywhere in particular. And there’s fantastic news that it has just become a World Heritage Site.
It’s especially good news because it means the 6000 sq km area encompassing Australia’s largest fringing reef plus a complex system of limestone caves in the Cape Range National Park, will now be protected by national legislation (apparently not all countries enforce World Heritage listing in law). So, take that wannabe developers!
There have been wranglings for years over Ningaloo with some folks desperate to make a buck out building a new marina and exploring for oil just offshore. But World Heritage Status should put an end to any damaging plans, leaving the reef, 200 coral species, it’s visiting whales sharks and 500 other fish species well alone.
Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society said:
“this listing puts a real responsibility on Australia to make sure the area is protected for the world, now and into the future.”
Horray for that!
Read more at Australian Geographic.