Exmouth Gulf: Spectacular but fragile area to be protected by new marine park

Charlotte EltonThe West Australian
Exmouth Gulf.
Camera IconExmouth Gulf. Credit: Supplied/Blue Media Exmouth/Blue Media Exmouth

The fragile Exmouth Gulf will soon be protected by a new marine park, putting the future of a proposed port in doubt.

The gulf — which sits right next to the world-famous Ningaloo Reef — hosts rich marine life, including a humpback nursery.

But an August Environmental Protection Agency report found that it is being put under “increasing pressure” by human activities.

The government today announced its commitment to all of the EPA suggestions, including establishing a marine park to protect the eastern and southern parts of the gulf.

Class A reserves will be gazetted for local areas of significance such as Qualing Pool, Camerons Cave and the gulf’s islands.

“Exmouth and the Exmouth Gulf are a beautiful part of the world,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

“The EPA has done a report ... to look at what should be done to ensure (the gulf) is preserved and protected for the long term.

“We have endorsed the EPA report and as a consequence, we’ll be putting in place a marine park on the eastern side of Exmouth Gulf and the southern side of Exmouth Gulf.”

The gulf has been the proposed site of several huge developments, including the Subsea oil and gas pipeline fabrication facility which would have seen a 10km steel pipeline built to service offshore gas fields.

Developers are currently seeking approval for the Gascoyne Gateway, a proposed deep water port — but the announcement puts its future in serious doubt.

Environment Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said that potential developments will now be subject to stricter assessment criteria.

“There’s a number of proposals with the EPA and they’ll go through the EPA process... there will be a higher bar for those assessments,” she said.

Project Ningaloo Director Paul Gamblin welcomed the announcement as “common sense.”

“The McGowan Government’s position clearly signals the end to a series of controversial industrial projects proposed for Exmouth Gulf,” he said.”

However, the company behind the proposed denied that the marine park would preclude a port.

We are confident our project can co-exist with Qualing Pool as an A-Class Nature Reserve. We are committed to a regenerative approach to everything we do, which includes leaving the environment better than we find it,” CEO Michael Edwards said.

The marine park will be located within the existing Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery designated nursery area. The government hope to start establishing the marine park within 18 months.

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