MEDIA RELEASE: The Ningaloo Coast World Heritage area has been downgraded in the third IUCN Outlook global report for natural World Heritage sites. Ningaloo was previously classified as ‘Good’ but has been downgraded to ‘Good with some concerns’. The analysis identifies climate change as the leading reason for this reclassification and highlights a number of other major threats to Ningaloo including those posed by oil and gas and coastal development, as well as fishing effort.

Protect Ningaloo Director, Paul Gamblin said, “This is a tough awakening for everyone who holds Ningaloo dear to their hearts. We’re being put on notice that Ningaloo’s status and health is sliding. Our leaders in WA and Canberra must get serious about tackling climate change and reducing direct pressures on the Reef ecosystem including by halting the threat from industrialisation in Exmouth Gulf, known as Ningaloo’s nursery.”

“Given Ningaloo is already enduring growing pressure, it’s high time we drew a line in the sand and stopped the march of industrialisation towards Exmouth Gulf, which will only ramp up the stress on the fragile, interconnected Ningaloo ecosystem.”

The Outlook report analysis makes specific mention of the importance of Exmouth Gulf for Ningaloo and the potential threat of industrial proposals such as the Subsea 7 oil and gas pipeline fabrication facility.

“At a time when governments should be doing everything in their powers to reduce pressure on the globally significant Ningaloo-Exmouth Gulf ecosystem, instead the community is having to fend off one major industrial proposal after another. There are proposals for a large deep water port, a massive oil and gas pipeline fabrication and towing operation, and a major salt production facility, all in Exmouth Gulf. This new report only makes these proposals look even more out of place and outdated.”

“The next Outlook report is in three years’ time, and there is a chance that Ningaloo could be downgraded further to ‘significant concern’ without serious action by governments on climate change and to protect Ningaloo-Exmouth Gulf from industrial development”.

While Ningaloo is still regarded is one of the healthiest coral reef systems in the world in relative terms, the Outlook report downgraded Australia’s Great Barrier Reef from ‘Significant concern’ to ‘Critical’ which shows how quickly climate change and local pressures can degrade these sensitive ecosystems.

Notes to editors:

The main report is here: 2020-035-En.pdf (iucn.org)

(Note that WA’s Shark Bay was also downgraded to ‘Good with some concerns’)

The Ningaloo analysis is here: Ningaloo Coast | World Heritage Outlook (iucn.org)

Image source: Andre Rerekura