Conserving the Nature of Shark Bay

Releasing a banded hare-wallaby
The international conservation significance of Shark Bay’s natural values was recognised with its World Heritage listing in 1991. Shark Bay therefore requires careful management to ensure these values are not compromised, diminished or destroyed. Whilst conserving the nature of Shark Bay is largely the role of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, locals and visitors alike have a role to play in protecting this special place.

Conservation significance

Shark Bay’s many notable features include:

  • The world’s most diverse and abundant examples of living marine stromatolites.
  • Habitat for some of the world’s most endangered species, including the loggerhead turtle, green turtle, dugong and four species of mammal found nowhere else on Earth.
  • At least 100 species of reptile and amphibian, 240 species of bird, 820 species of fish and more than 80 coral and 218 bivalve species. Shark Bay is also an important site for migratory species including wading birds from the Northern Hemisphere and humpback whales.
  • At least 820 species of plant, including Earth’s most expansive and diverse seagrass populations. Covering some 4,000 km2, the seagrass meadows have modified the entire marine environment.
  • Many endemic species and subspecies of plants and animals, as well as species at the limit of their geographic range.
  • The meeting point of three climatic zones and two botanical provinces. This makes Shark Bay of interest to scientists studying the factors that limit species distribution, adaptation and abundance.
  • Exceptional coastal scenery, from red and white sands and turquoise lagoons to plunging cliffs and soaring dunes.

Shark Bay is one of the world’s most significant natural sites. Click here to find out why Shark Bay is so significant.

Conservation projects

A range of practical projects are underway to conserve the natural ecosystems of Shark Bay and the Dirk Hartog Island Ecological Restoration Project aims to restore the ecosystems of the island and return a number of small mammal species lost to the island.

List of current projects:

Research for conservation

Loggerhead turtle research being conducted on Dirk Hartog Island

Shark Bay provides an excellent opportunity to study a range of terrestrial and marine wildlife. The information gathered from these studies helps us to better understand the local ecosystem and conserve it more effectively.

Research also gives unprecedented insights into the lives of some of the Bay’s familiar animals, such as the bottlenose dolphin. The dolphins at Monkey Mia have been studied for more than 20 years, the longest continuous study of bottlenose dolphins in the world. This research has not only contributed to the understanding of dolphins worldwide but has helped reduce the impacts of human activities, such as dolphin-focused tourism.

Research in Shark Bay is long-term and ongoing. Click on the links to discover more about these studies:

You can search for scientific papers about other Shark Bay research projects here