World Heritage

Managing the World Heritage Area

'image description'

As a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, Australia has an international obligation to protect, conserve, rehabilitate, present and transmit to future generations Shark Bay’s World Heritage values.

The Australian Government has primary responsibility for the development and implementation of national policy on World Heritage matters. The work is done primarily by the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife which is the lead state agency, with input from other agencies. To manage this enormous area efficiently, the Department of Parks and Wildlife has entered into partnerships with other agencies, authorities, industry groups and resource users to manage the land and sea. 
Within the World Heritage Area boundary are several different types of land tenure, including national parks, nature reserves and conservation parks, pastoral leases, unallocated crown land, shire reserves, and freehold (private) land. World Heritage listing does not alter tenure or take away land ownership rights or control.

About 122,000 hectares of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area is terrestrial and almost 70% of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area is marine.

  • Parks and Wildlife manages the Shark Bay Marine Park and the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, 
  • The Department of Fisheries controls fishing activities and fishing zones.

Parks and Wildlife staff in Denham are responsible for the majority of day-to day management activities, including feral animal control, weed eradication, landscape and track rehabilitation, road realignment (to protect sensitive ecosystems), camp site and other recreation facility construction and maintenance, interpretive services and coordination of marine reserve management. These activities are conducted in cooperation with agencies such as the Department for Planning and Infrastructure, Gascoyne Development Commission, Department for Agriculture and Food, Main Roads Western Australia, Department of Fisheries, the Shire of Shark Bay, Yadgalah Aboriginal Corporation, and private land owners and users. Find out the responsibilities of each organisation here.

Other agencies involved in marine management include the Department for Planning and Infrastructure (responsible for boating and marine traffic), and the Western Australian Maritime Museum (maritime heritage artefacts and sites).

Summary of Tenure – Shark Bay World Heritage Property

  Area of WHP (ha) Area of WHP (%)
Marine reserves
882 000 40.2
Other state waters
687 750 31.4
Pastoral leases
131 732 6.0
Ex pastoral lease - purchased for conservation
232 750 10.6
Pastoral lease - proposed conservation reserve
80 015 3.6
National parks, nature reserves, conservation parks
121 825 5.6
Other land (unallocated crown land, un-managed reserve, shire reserves)
56 607 2.6
842 0.04
TOTAL 2 193 521 100
Much of Shark Bay’s World Heritage values can be effectively protected and managed with existing tenure and land use activities. However, changes in tenure may improve the protection and management of World Heritage values in some areas. For example, some lands currently used for pastoralism may be purchased and set aside for conservation purposes.

The variety of tenures and uses means management can be complex. A ministerial council and two advisory committees work on policy, management plans and other issues affecting the World Heritage Area.

Management Planning

Management plans are vital to address the protection, conservation and presentation of Shark Bay’s natural and cultural values. They incorporate legislative requirements with scientific and community information, interests and concerns, and provide a way forward for the management of the World Heritage Area.

Sample management plans

Several plans have been prepared, or are in preparation, to address the protection and management of Shark Bay’s World Heritage values and conservation reserves. They include:

Shark Bay World Heritage Property Strategic Plan

Shark Bay World Heritage Advisory Committee

The Shark Bay World Heritage Advisory Committee provides advice to the Minister for the Environment and the Environment Protection Heritage Council on matters relating to:

  1. the protection, conservation, presentation and management of the Property from the view point of the community;
  2. research priorities which contribute to the protection and conservation of the Property and understanding of its natural history;
  3. new information or developments relevant to protection, conservation or presentation of the Property;
  4. the scientific basis of management principles and practices;
  5. legislative processes for environmental assessment; and
  6. maintenance of outstanding universal values and integrity of the Property.

The committee also has input into the drafting and review of management plans.

Thomas Day Chair
Professor Diana Walker Science/technical
Phillip Scott Science/technical
Peter Green Broader community
Vacant Indigenous
Keith Capewell Indigenous
Therese Morris Science/technical
Vacant Local community
Paul Anderson Local community
Robert Morgan Local community
Geoffrey Wardle Broader community

Managing Tourism

Shark Bay’s World Heritage values and largely undeveloped environment attracts well over 100,000 visitors per year, not bad for an area with a population of less than 1,000 people! It is essential that tourism is managed well – not just for the long-term health of the environment, but for the industry’s future, too.

Management plans for Shark Bay’s marine and terrestrial conservation reserves contain detailed strategies to enable recreation and tourism activities while protecting World Heritage values.

World Heritage branding

Shark Bay World Heritage Area logo

A unique World Heritage brand has been developed to unify the image of the World Heritage Area for the many land managers and stakeholder groups. The aim of the branding initiative is to increase the local community’s knowledge and pride in the World Heritage Area and promote Shark Bay’s values to visitors to the region.

Central to the new brand is the World Heritage Area logo. Inspired by Shark Bay’s striking coastline, the logo is a representation of Gutharraguda (“two waters”), the Malgana Aboriginal people’s name for Shark Bay. 

Management Contacts

Management Planning

If you’d like to learn more about the management of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, contact

Cheryl Cowell
Project Officer, World Heritage
Department of Parks and Wildlife
61-63 Knight Terrace 
Denham WA 6537
Phone:  08 9948 2226 in Australia; 61 8 9948 2226 outside Australia
Fax:      08 9948 1024 in Australia, 61 8 9948 1024 outside Australia

Tourism Management Contacts in Shark Bay

Shark Bay Tourism Association