21 February 2006

Australia: Ningaloo reef may go 'World Heritage'

Western Australia is closer to asking for World Heritage protection for Ningaloo Reef, one of the world's most pristine marine environments.

The state government is consulting with the community to decide what boundaries of the world-renowned tourist destination will be nominated for inclusion on the world heritage list.

The process followed the release of an independent report, commissioned in June 2004, which nominated the North West Cape Ningaloo area, Environment Minister Mark McGowan said.

"The state government has identified Ningaloo Marine Park, Cape Range National Park and key areas of the North-West Cape next to the reef to be included in the nomination boundary and is seeking further input from stakeholders," Mr McGowan said.

"Ningaloo Reef is world renowned for its biological diversity, superlative beauty and outstanding geological values and it, along with Cape Range National Park, is one of the State's greatest nature-based tourism attractions," he said.

The reef is a habitat to more than 200 species of coral, 600 species of shellfish and other molluscs, 500 species of fish and several threatened species such as dugong and turtles.

It also is an important migratory path for humpback whales and important aggregation and feeding area for whale sharks.

World Heritage listing would help save the whale sharks by bringing their plight to international attention, Mr McGowan said.

The consultation phase would be an important step in determining what nomination boundary was proposed to the federal government before the end of the year, he said.

Source: news.ninemsn.com.au


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