Ningaloo’s nursery is facing new threats

Current threats to Ningaloo

Like all coral reefs and marine habitats worldwide Ningaloo is vulnerable to ocean acidification and coral bleaching associated with global warming.  Carbon emissions have caused some damage at Ningaloo and there is no doubt the corals of the Ningaloo/Exmouth Gulf region are under stress due to climate change, but so far they’ve been spared the catastrophic coral mortality already seen on the Great Barrier Reef.

Marine systems at Ningaloo face constant fishing pressure and this requires careful ongoing monitoring and management.  The Gulf also faces proposals for salt mining and for fracking on its southern and eastern shores, but the chief underlying threat to marine life in the region is from the offshore fossil fuel industry which conducts seismic activity known to disrupt whale and dolphin habitat and creates the carbon pollution that threatens all marine and human life globally.  Offshore oil rigs will never be present without the ongoing risk of oil spills.

Industrialisation of the Gulf

Subsea 7, a foreign multinational corporation, is proposing a pipe fabrication and launch facility at Heron Point, near the Bay of Rest, in Exmouth Gulf.  Oil and gas pipes will be assembled and bundled onshore, rolled down rail lines and launched into the shallows.  From there they will be dragged along the seabed for about 1.5 kilometres until they float.  Once they float they will be steadied by heavy chains that hang down under the pipes as they are towed by tugs. Lines of pipe that can be up to 10 kilometres long will be towed through the waters of the Gulf and taken seaward through the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Marine Park. The Shire of Exmouth has advertised changes to planning regulations to enable this proposal to proceed.

At present, there is no industrial activity on the Gulf’s shores or waters, and there’s a reason for that – until now it’s been widely agreed that this environment is too sensitive and valuable to be exposed to industry.  The activities Subsea 7 proposes are simply incompatible with the environmental values of the area.  The building of a 350m rock wall, the scouring associated with dragging pipes and chains, the effects of emissions and spills on mangroves, industrial activity on top of subterranean cave systems – all of these bring unnecessary risks and pressures to the marine and terrestrial environment.

Why is any of this a problem?

Because the Gulf is one of the few intact coastal systems in the world.  The IUCN says it has World Heritage values. Its mangroves and shallows generate much of the marine life that replenishes nearby Ningaloo Reef – it’s Ningaloo’s nursery.  It’s also a haven for many species of endangered migratory birds as well as home to threatened or vulnerable species of turtles and sharks as well as dugongs and manta rays.  Whale sharks move through its sheltered waters and humpback whales use it as a calving ground and nursery.

It will affect local amenity and impact on nature-based tourism businesses that already operate in the Gulf.  If it goes ahead, Subsea 7’s factory, rail line and rockwall will be the first thing inbound tourists see as they fly in to Learmonth.  And this proposal will only be the beginning.  If the local Shire presses ahead with zoning changes and Subsea 7 gets approval, a whole swathe of the Gulf shore will be open to industry.  From there, there’s no turning back.  The Gulf’s values will be degraded and the vibrant and sustainable eco-tourism industry at Ningaloo will be compromised.

Where things stand

The Shire amendments and the Subsea 7 proposal have only recently been exposed to public scrutiny by watchful locals.  Subsea 7’s referral went to the West Australian EPA on 23 October, 2017 and within the 7-day public comment period 139 submissions were received on the matter.  The overwhelming majority of those were against the development.

 

As a result the proposal now faces a full Public Environmental Review, the highest form of assessment available.  The proposal has also been presented for assessment by the Commonwealth.  In coming weeks and months Protect Ningaloo and its supporters will be building the case against this development and making sure the public is informed of developments as they arise.

“Ningaloo Reef is a miracle and a gift. It’s one of the last great wild places left on earth, so why would anyone put Ningaloo’s nursery at risk? Don’t let it happen. Protect Ningaloo!”
– Peter Garrett

“Ningaloo Reef is a miracle and a gift. It’s one of the last great wild places left on earth, so why would anyone put Ningaloo’s nursery at risk? Don’t let it happen. Protect Ningaloo!”
– Peter Garrett

How can you help

 

 

  •  First, sign up and join our community of Ningaloo Protectors.
  • Donate if you can because we’re a volunteer outfit and we’re up against a multinational corporation with deep pockets – we need to fund this fight.
  • Contact the Environment Minister to let him know you’re appalled at what’s being proposed for Exmouth Gulf.

    We will let you know about upcoming events and ways you can help out.

Exmouth Gulf doesn’t need industrialisation.
It needs a sustainable future.