Proposed Shire planning amendments may soon open the gate to industrial development on the shores of Exmouth Gulf at Heron Point.
Exmouth Gulf is a rare and precious estuarine system. It’s big – 2,600 square kilometres – and it’s still largely unspoilt by development. It’s also crucial to the health of nearby Ningaloo Reef.
Scientists regard Ningaloo and Exmouth Gulf as critically interconnected. The Gulf’s calm, sheltered waters are a vital calving, nursing and resting ground for humpback whales. Its mangrove systems, fragile coral structures and sponge gardens are a nursery and refuge for many species of fish, sharks, rays, crustaceans, and invertebrates. Many of its islands and mangroves are critical migratory bird habitat. The Gulf serves to support and replenish World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef.
The IUCN and other agencies have declared that Exmouth Gulf has World Heritage values essential for the maintenance of the Ningaloo/Cape Range World Heritage Area.
As well as supporting eco-tourism, the Gulf supports recreational and commercial fishing. It is considered by many to be Ningaloo’s ‘best kept secret’, a place of extraordinary biodiversity and abundance. But its relatively low profile has meant it gets less protection and less regulatory attention. Proposals that would not be contemplated at Ningaloo Reef are now being actively promoted in the Gulf.