Our marine areas are unique and many of them rival their terrestrial counterparts in scenic grandeur. Western Australia’s coastline spans more than 13,500km and is home to some of the world’s most remarkable ecosystems and marine wildlife, including massive whale sharks, humpback whales and several threatened species of sea turtles. Many of the State’s marine plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world.
Unusual oceanographic conditions along the coast of Western Australia have produced a wide variety of ecosystems with many unique features. Extensive coral reefs, estuaries, intertidal mangrove forests, seagrass beds, sandy beaches and coastal saltmarshes dominate the tropical north and also occur along the west coast. Rocky shores, sandy beaches, algal reefs and kelp forests, replete with a large proportion of species unique to southern Australia such as the Australian sea lion and leafy seadragon, are found in the warm temperate southern waters. An area of biological overlap, between North West Cape and Cape Leeuwin, has marine flora and fauna that is a mixture of these two regions.
The marine waters between Ningaloo Marine Park and the Northern Territory border are of immense significance. The Ningaloo region was recently declared as a World Heritage Area, in recognition of its outstanding biological diversity. The Kimberley region is one of the most pristine areas remaining in the world, and the State Government has established new marine parks in the Kimberley at Camden Sound and Eighty Mile Beach, with commitments to establish three more marine parks at Horizontal Falls, North Kimberley and Roebuck Bay.
The marine waters from Shark Bay to the South Australian border protect wonders as diverse as the world’s most extensive seagrass meadows and the world’s largest population of dugongs in Shark Bay Marine Park, the 2000 year old stromatolites in Hamelin Pool Nature Reserve, and thousands of offshore islands providing important breeding areas for sea lions, New Zealand fur seals, little penguins and seabirds.
Western Australia’s 16 marine parks and reserves protect natural features and aesthetic values while enabling recreational and commercial uses that do not compromise conservation values.