CARING FOR THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
Together we can make a difference!
Protecting and preserving the North West Cape for now and future generations.
Cape Conservation Group is engaged in a range of different long-term projects that include grass-roots conservation work as well as environmental advocacy.
Click on a Project from the list below to learn more
OUR CURRENT PROJECTS:
- Protect Ningaloo: SAVE EXMOUTH GULF
- Feral Animal Project
- Reef Check
- Local Rubbish & Beach Cleanups
- Ningaloo Turtle Program
- Oil and Gas Representation
- Community Monitoring of Black-Flanked Rock Wallabies
- Waste & Recycling in Exmouth
- Frack Free Ningaloo
- Community Bat Surveys
OUR PAST PROJECTS:
SAVE EXMOUTH GULF
OIL AND GAS PUSHES FOR A PIPE ASSEMBLY FACILITY AT HERON POINT
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.
Ningaloo Reef’s nursery is under threat – Get involved now!
Feral Animal Program
Feral cat caught during trapping program (Courtesy: DBcA)
Black Flanked rock Wallaby (Courtesy: Tony Howard)
Cape Conservation Group have been working with Parks and Wildlife Services for the past few years on reducing the impact of feral animals on the North West Cape.
Our “Feeling Feral” project introduced education and awareness of the feral animal problems on the North West Cape. This included rabbits, foxes, goats and cats. This project was very successful.
We are continuing to work with Parks and Wildlife Services to reduce the impact of feral cats, in particular, on threatened fauna. The project will assist in the collection of improved data project will assist in the collection of improved data about the impact of feral cats about the impact of feral cats on the Ningaloo and Exmouth Gulf coasts. The data will increase current understanding of species distribution, critical habitat and identification of threats to native animals.
The project will involve:
- the direct removal of cats through trapping and baiting
- educating the community about the impact of feral cats and threatened species recovery
- encouraging responsible domestic cat ownership
- public presentations on the issue
Involvement for CCG members from this project is likely to include:
- Shorebird surveying workshops and field work
- Black-flanked Rock Wallaby surveying workshops and field work
- Feral animal control education and field work with Parks and Wildlife Services
Reef Check Ningaloo
CCG has chosen to survey Oyster Stacks, a popular snorkelling destination on the western side of the North West Cape within Cape Range National Park. Sampling at regular periods throughout the year, including pre- and post- holiday periods, will enable assessment of any variation in health that might be attributed to natural or human uses. The longterm data will also enable assessment of any changes that might occur due to seasonality. This information is extremely valuable as the health of the world’s reef systems are effected by climate change.
We are still in the early stages of getting Reef Check Ningaloo up and running. Our goal is to engage a local Co-ordinator and trainer so that the number of surveyors will increase, along with an expansion of our survey sites. The team liaise with Parks and Wildlife services, CSIRO, university groups and independent researchers.
If you are keen to get involved in this initiative, please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Coral reef monitoring (Courtesy: DBcA)
CCG members at beach cleanup at Turquoise Bay
CCG members work with Sea Shepherd Australia’s Marine Debris Campaign team who coordinate monthly beach cleans from March to October.
The sites to be cleaned are chosen based on footfall and also reports from the public about where they are observing debris and have been conducted at Turquoise Bay, Oyster Stacks, Wobiri, Jurabi Turtle Information Centre, Town Beach and the Marina as well as further afield at Ningaloo Station.
The clean ups are open to any member of the public to join in and take part. The collection of debris usually takes place for 60-90 minutes. The debris is then weighed and sorted into what material it is made of and then recorded using Tangaroa Blue’s criteria and data entered into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative database.
The data collection and recording is crucial. This data enables statistics to be presented to industry and others to try to change products or affect behavioural changes. With data contributions from the whole of Australia patterns can be identified.
If you would like to join us look out for the posts on Facebook letting you know where we will be!
Ningaloo Turtle Program
The Ningaloo Turtle Program (NTP) is a community-based citizen science marine turtle monitoring program that was established in 2002, with the primary aim of marine turtle conservation and to promote the long-term survival of turtle populations. It was initially a partnership between the Cape Conservation Group (CCG), the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Murdoch University. The initial funding for this project came from a Threatened Species Network Grant through the WWF, and was the first marine-based project to be awarded the grant in WA. The NTP continues as a partnership between CCG and Parks and Wildlife.
During the turtle nesting season, from November through to the end of March, local volunteers monitor 12 nesting beaches every second weekend along the Ningaloo Coast Jurabi Coastal Park. The data collected includes the number of successful nests and number of false crawls (unsuccessful nesting) of Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles. The monitoring also records feral animal tracks, and this data is used by Parks and Wildlife to assist with the control of foxes and feral cats along the turtle nesting beaches. During the peak nesting time, monitoring occurs daily from mid December to mid January and is carried out by volunteers who come to Exmouth for 5 weeks. Each year new volunteers are trained to survey for the Ningaloo Turtle Program.
Find out more about this initiative and stay informed by visiting the Ningaloo Turtle Program website. You can also find out more on Facebook
NTP training on the beach (Image courtesy of DBcA)
Oil & Gas
around the North West Cape
Oil tanker within the Ningaloo Marine Park
The Exmouth sub-basin is one of the highest producing oil regions in Australia, at times producing more oil and any other area in the country. There is a small on-shore operation, but the oil is predominately produced in the waters off the northern end of Ningaloo Reef. There are a number of fields run by various petroleum companies.
The FPSOs (Floating Production Storage and Offtake vessel) are refitted ships that sit on the sea surface. Beneath the surface they are connected to a series of pipes that are drilled down vertically into the seabed, and then travel many kilometres horizontally collecting oil. Companies also use these pipes to re-inject gas and waste back into the space left by the oil removed. The pipe systems are extensive – and may be collecting oil from several fields up to 30kms away. There is also a subsea gas field that cannot be seen from the surface.
When Ningaloo Coast was listed as a World Heritage site, the IUCN identified oil spill as one of the greatest threats to it. For this reason CCG has been a longterm advocate for best practice in industry, in the hope of reducing this risk. Since the Gulf of Mexico spill and our own massive, local Kimberley oil spills, industry standards have been scrutinised by government. But there is no room for complacency when the consequences could be so catastrophic. Potential sources for an oil spill include the underground wells, the below surface pipes, from the FPSO when transferring oil to an oil tanker or even a ship collision.
The petroleum industry inherently has a number of other environmental consequences which CCG also advocate to reduce a number of other environmental impacts that stem from the oil and gas industry, such as:
- Invisible pollution that is created when gas is burnt off at very high temperatures
- discharging pollutants into the sea
- Introduction of pests and disease from international vessels that enter waters around the Cape. This is particularly concerning in relation to vessels from South-east Asia
- Seismic surveys: these vessels use noise to map the geology of the sea bed. Sound waves are bounced off underground rock formations and the waves that reflect back to the surface are captured for analysis. The sound waves can travel many kilometres and have a profound effect on marine animals, particularly whales, whose hearing frequency overlaps with that of seismic surveying.
What are we doing?
CCG has been consulting with the petroleum industry and various levels of government advocating for best practice. World Heritage status means there is no extraction allowed within the World Heritage area – but a spill outside the World Heritage site could still impact on Ningaloo. Exmouth Gulf is outside of the World Heritage area, and has a rare, intact, arid zone mangrove forest system. Mangrove systems are seriously vulnerable to the impacts from an oil spill. Exmouth Gulf also contains the southern hemisphere’s greatest concentration of resting Humpback Whales – who are sensitive to shipping and noise. Constant vigilance about the use of the Gulf by petroleum companies is essential.
What can you do?
Report oilNgas@ccg.org.au any concerning things you see in the area.
of Black-flanked Rock Wallabies
The Black-flanked rock wallaby (Petrogale lateralis lateralis) is an elusive and agile marsupial that is threatened with extinction. The gorges and rock-shelters of Cape Range are one of six remaining locations in Western Australia where the Black-flanked rock wallaby finds refuge. Since 2005, CCG members have been recording the historical and current distribution and abundance of rock wallabies, the threats that they face and the impact of conservation strategies by undertaking regular monitoring and surveys. This involves exploring the gorges, rocky outcrops and gullies of the CapeRange, looking for signs of rock-wallaby scats (fresh and old faeces) and the animals themselves. When rock wallabies are located, we continue to monitor their numbers and behaviour in subsequent years.
So far, we have found and monitored approximately 12 groups of rock wallabies in the Cape Range. The major threats faced by Cape Range rock wallabies appear to be predation by foxes and displacement by feral goats, which compete with rock-wallabies for food and habitat. Survey work and the ongoing monitoring of known groups will assist with the conservation and management of this threatened species.
Black Flanked Rock Wallaby (Image courtesy of Tony Howard)
Waste & Recycling in Exmouth
CCG and locals join forces to show support for the introduction of recycling in Exmouth.
CCG has been involved in managing waste over a number of years, running local rubbish cleanups, educating people about refusing to use plastic, reducing, reusing and recycling waste. Over the years we have run local waste clean ups on roadsides, within town and along our beaches as well as supporting others running these such as the local shire and Sea Shepherd.
In 2003 we initiated the No Plastic Fantastic campaign to remove plastic bags from our shops. Over the next 4 years we negotiated with our local supermarkets to remove plastic bags entirely. Exmouth’s IGA stores removed plastic bags from use at the checkout. It was the second town in WA to do this, and that was a decade before it became State policy!
CCG stock and sell products that assist locals and visitors to actively participate in reducing what goes to landfill. Shopping bags have also been distributed to the community on numerous occasions. Working with DBCA, IGA, the school and newsagency, school children are given their books in reusable bags at the beginning of each year.
Increasing education about the impacts of plastics and other waste is important, and to do this CCG joined the Plastic Free July event in 2017. Together with discussions and education through our market stalls, films and guest presenters speaking about the impact of plastic pollution on the marine environment, it was encouraging to see and hear the community’s positive response to these initiatives.
The local community Facebook pages also deserve recognition for their role in promoting reuse of home goods – making someone’s trash, someone else’s treasure!
In 2017, after years of engagement with the local community about getting a recycling facility, the Shire of Exmouth withdrew from the Gascoyne Region Waste and Recycling Infrastructure Project. CCG surveyed residents in May 2017, and received more than 600 resident signatures in favour of a recycling facility. To date the Shire will not commit to implementing recycling here. However, we will continue to advocate for a waste management and recycling facility in Exmouth. Recognition and praise is given to all the community groups that support keeping our environment healthy by managing waste properly.
What can you do?
If you’d like to be involved in this initiative please contact us email@example.com
Frack Free Ningaloo
We live in one of the most precious places in the world. Ningaloo and the Cape Range – in fact the whole North West Cape is a national treasure. More than that, it’s a global treasure, which is why our home is on the World Heritage List.
This is why we’ve made it clear what we think about fracking (or unconventional onshore gas mining). It has a sorry record in Australia and a worse record overseas. It’s shown that it takes much more than it contributes. It wastes precious water and it pollutes drinking water. It doesn’t build communities, it ruins them. And as we’ve seen from experiences in Queensland and NSW, and many, many experiences in the US, it decimates and industrializes landscapes.
This is why Exmouth has said no. This is why we’ve joined hundreds of other Australian towns and shires in locking the gate against fracking.
A few of us spent 12 months going door-to-door, meeting every resident and ratepayer we could. So locals could have their say. In that time we surveyed over 1000 residents, which is most of the adult population of Exmouth. Of those surveyed, 98.3% said they didn’t want fracking activity in this area. There couldn’t be a clearer indication of how the community feels about this. A process like this is hundreds of times more reliable than a phone poll that merely takes a small sample. This survey gives an ironclad view of where we stand as a community. And we’re thrilled to announce it. Late in 2017, Coral Bay Conservation Group completed surveying Coral Bay, and more than 99% of its residents have said no to fracking.
The North West Cape was declared a frack free zone in 2017. The declaration has no power under the law, but what it does, for local government, for the state and federal governments, and above all to the unconventional gas miners looking to drill here, is to make it very plain that the fracking industry has no social licence here, it’s not welcome.
This is part of the speech given by CCG President, Denise Fitch, at Federation Park, Exmouth, 2017.
Nearly 99% of Coral Bay and Exmouth locals said the area should be kept free from unconventional gas mining!
No Plastic, Fantastic!
Plastic bag litter is unsightly and threatens wildlife, notably marine turtles, which can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish.
The No Plastic Fantastic campaign was initiated in 2003 to reduce the use of plastic bags around the North West Cape. Through working with Exmouth and Coral Bay retailers, local government and the general public we were able to make this a reality.
Since this time hundreds of Exmouth locals and visitors have been surveyed and informed about the project. The majority agreed that we should get rid of plastic altogether.
In 2007, encouraged by CCG, the supermarkets in Exmouth began charging people a fee for plastic bags. By November, 2008, the supermarkets stopped giving away plastic bags at the checkout. Donations received for the issue of plastic bags were given to CCG, to CARE which is Exmouth’s wildlife care and rehabilitation group, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. CCG created an educational brochure that was distributed to households, and posters for businesses supporting the initiative.
Over the years, the project has included public education, news articles, posters and the production of calico bags, designed by CCG with financial assistance from the Gascoyne Development Commission. In February 2009, CCG received a $10,000 grant from Woodside Energy Ltd for the production and distribution of additional calico bags and the development of brochures and signs.
Halt The Salt Campaign
Straits Resources Ltd. had proposed to develop Western Australia’s largest salt mine on the eastern fringe of Exmouth Gulf – a region repeatedly recognised for its environmental values and recommended for protection by both state and federal planning and conservation policy frameworks.
The Yannarie Solar Salt Project would involve the construction of 17,000 hectares of infrastructure in a wetland of national significance (Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia, ANCA, 1993), immediately adjacent to sensitive arid zone mangroves (Guidance Statement for the Protection of Tropical Arid Zone mangroves along the Pilbara Coastline, EPA, 2001) and pristine waters (Pilbara Coastal Water Quality Consultation Outcomes, DoE, 2006), which provide a valuable nursery area for marine fish and invertebrates. The project includes 8,000 hectares of storage of a toxic byproduct called “bitterns”. The salt mine was likely to be irreversible damage the habitat of threatened species, including dugong, marine turtles and humpback whales.
From 2005, CCG worked in alliance with a suite of organisations from conservation and recreational and commercial fishing sectors to lobby for the protection of environmental and biodiversity in Exmouth Gulf and its ecosystems. Straits Resources continued to pursue implementation of the project. However, after a long battle, the EPA concluded the proposed solar salt farm was in an area that presented unacceptably high risks of environmental harm to wetland values and unacceptable levels of uncertainty in relation to long term management of bitterns.
Some of the many project supporters included the Conservation Council of WA, Recfish Australia, Recfishwest, WA Fishing Industry Council, Pearl Producers Association, North West Research Association, Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society.
Salt mine in production.
World & National Heritage
Cave in Cape Range National Park (courtesy of Tony Howard)
The WA State Government and the Federal Government prepared a nomination in which parts of the North West Cape will be listed on the World Heritage List. Such changes would maximise protection protection of the region’s unique natural environment and contribute to ensuring that the outstanding universal values of the North West Cape area are preserved in perpetuity. The expectation was that the region would benefit economically from such listing and from the additional resources and tourism it would attract.
In 2005 The World Heritage Consultative Committee (WHCC) presented a report that recommended a Ningaloo-North West Cape boundary that identified World Heritage values while minimising conflict with stakeholders.
However, the boundary that was proposed by the State Government was inconsistent with the WHCC’s recommendations and excluded areas that had been identified as containing significant values, such as the northern end of Ningaloo Reef at the Muiron Islands, parts of the Cape Range karst system, and Exmouth Gulf. The recommendations also did not provide adequate protection for the region’s environmental values and related ecosystems, and were also likely to compromise the integrity of the nomination. There was also a possibility that the World Heritage Committee might not accept the recommendation.
At the time, CCG engaged with politicians, State and Federal Governments and the general public to raise awareness of the natural values of the area and encourage support for a nomination that would incorporate the WHCC’s optimal boundary. In 2011, Ningaloo was listed as a World Heritage Area, but Exmouth Gulf was excluded from this protection, not a decision based on scientific evidence, but a political decision. Exmouth Gulf remains unprotected and vulnerable.
Community Bat Surveys
Bat surveys were conducted by volunteers in 2005, 2008 and 2010.
Mist nets and acoustic recordings were used to collect data on the diversity and ecology of bats in the Cape Range. Three species were found to be reproducing in the area: the Inland Cave Bat, the Common Sheath-tailed Bat, and the Black Flying-fox. Ecolocation calls of Gould’s Wattled Bat and Little Broad-nosed Bat were recorded with a high level of identification confidence. During the surveys there were several encounters with large bats suspected to be Ghost Bats, and there were echolocation calls that also suggested the presence of this species. The Pilbara Leaf-nosed Bat was also observed during the study, and acoustic detections supported this. It is endemic to Australia and only inhabits the Pilbara region. It is considered Rare or likely to become extinct by the WA Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, and is listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act (1999).
Sarell, M. and J. Burgar (2011). Summer Bat Surveys at Cape Range, Western Australia. Prepared by Ophiuchus Consulting in co-operation with the Cape Conservation Group and the Department of Environment and Conservation, Exmouth, Western Australia.
Bat captured for research purposes (courtesy of Tony Howard)