Media Release, Tuesday, 27 July 2004

Ningaloo protection plan important step forward but big opportunities missed

Yesterday, the Premier, Dr Geoff Gallop, released the long-awaited draft Management Plan for Ningaloo Marine Park. It proposes extensions to the Park and to sanctuary zones (areas where commercial and recreational fishing are not permitted). The Premier also released a research package to enable scientists to better understand Ningaloo’s marine ecosystems, including work on whale shark conservation and to better understand the impacts of fishing.

Paul Gamblin, Save Ningaloo Campaign spokesperson said, “By proposing the extensions, the government is acknowledging that without strong action now, Ningaloo’s health will suffer. Although we welcome the much-needed injection of funds for research and consider the marine park plan a good starting point for discussion, the question still facing the community is: will this plan be enough to save Ningaloo?”

“The Save Ningaloo Campaign believes that a lot of work will have to be done over the next three months to improve the plan to a point where it will be effective. Most importantly, the total proportion of sanctuary zones needs to be increased in light of scientific advice, but it’s also crucial to ensure that the zones are appropriately located to protect different types of habitat.”

“The Townsville Declaration – a statement from eminent scientists from universities and research institutes including James Cook, Stanford and the Smithsonian Institution – advised that between 30 and 50% of coral reefs should be protected in sanctuary zones. Furthermore, prevailing scientific opinion is that bag limits, alone, do not provide sufficient protection.”

“One of the other missed opportunities in the plan is the proposal for a lesser form of protection for the Muiron Islands off the northern section of Ningaloo. These islands have strong ecological linkages with Ningaloo and are home to incredible coral lagoons and nesting sites for endangered turtles, and needs as much protection as the rest of Ningaloo Reef, not less.”

“Scientists know how much area of coral reefs need to be protected in sanctuary zones but the rigorous analysis to know where the zones should be placed, such as that undertaken at the Great Barrier Reef, has not yet been done at Ningaloo.”

“The good news is, the plan can be made to work so long as the government is open to scientific advice and committed to undertaking extensive community consultation through workshops and face-to-face meetings wherever possible, so that no one is left out. That includes fishers, divers, campers and everyone else with an interest in Ningaloo.”

“If we want to have a healthy, world-class reef where a family on holiday can see Ningaloo’s incredible wildlife and still get a feed of fish, we must be responsible now. We should remember that tourism is the biggest industry in the region so it makes good business sense to look after Ningaloo for that reason alone.”

Information for editors

Warnings about the plight of coral reefs and the need to increase sanctuary zones have been reported in recent editions of esteemed publications such as Science and Nature:

  • “…our results demonstrate that coral reef ecosystems will not survive for more than a few decades unless they are promptly and massively protected from human exploitation.”

In this article, overfishing was identified once again as one of the main causes of reef degradation worldwide. (Hughes T. P. et al, “Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs” p. 957, Science, vol. 301, no. 5635, 15 August 2003).

  • “...the rate of establishment and size of NTAs [sanctuary zones] needs to be hugely increased.”

(Bellwood et al, “Confronting the coral reef crisis”, Nature, vol. 429, 24 June, 2004, p. 831).
The article pointed to the recent, large increase in sanctuary zones at the Great Barrier Reef as a good model.

The Wilderness Society Conservation Council of WA
Australian Marine Conservation Society
World Wildlife Fund

Media Contact: Paul Gamblin, Save Ningaloo campaign spokesperson,


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