Western Australian Marine

About the Area

The Western Australian Marine ecoregion contains the largest barrier reefs in the Indian Ocean and one of the largest and most species-rich sea grass meadows in the world.
Coral reefs extend for over 3,000 km (1,900 miles) along the western coast of Australia, with numerous reef systems and varieties, ranging from open ocean atolls to fringing and barrier reefs.

The reefs contain a great diversity of fish, corals, and other invertebrates. Ten per cent of the world's Dugong (Dugong dugon) population occurs at Shark Bay in this ecoregion. Shark Bay also contains excellent examples of the colony-forming cyanobacterium, also known as stromatalites.

Local Species

Some common fish species include Damselfish (Parma spp.), Wobbegong shark (Orectolobus spp.), and Long finned sea pike (Dinolestes lewini). Among the endemic species found here are Red crab (Gecarcoidea natalis), and a species of starshell (Astraea tentoriiformis).

Species that have been recorded in this ecoregion include the Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea), Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Dugong (Dugong dugon), Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Flatback turtle (Narator depressa), Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Sooty tern (Sterna fuscata), and twelve species of sea snakes.

At least three whale species are regularly sighted around the reefs and lagoons during migration seasons. They are the Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), Bryde's whale (Balaenoptera edeni), and Minke whale (B. acutorostrata).

Threats
Agricultural activities, dredging for shipping access, dumping of dredge spoil, mining of reefs, material pollution, and tourism activities pose a serious threat to reefs in some areas. Oil spills, traditional fishing practices, stealing bird and turtle eggs, and killing of birds, turtles, and dugongs further add to the woes of this ecoregion.

Resources

Size:
N/A

Habitat type:
Tropical Upwelling

Geographic Location:
Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact

Quiz Time!

Why is Shark Bay a World Heritage site?

Answer:
One of the reasons that Shark Bay was named a World Heritage site in 1991 is the presence of living stromatolites. These structures are formed by colonies of bacteria that are among the oldest forms of life on Earth. It is also the site of Wooramel Bank, an extensive underwater meadow where 12 different species of seagrass grow.

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