World Heritage

Managing the World Heritage Area

Community workshopAs 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. In 1997 the Australian Government and the state government of Western Australia, in accordance with Australia’s obligations, signed an administrative agreement to ensure that the day-to-day management of the World Heritage Area would be undertaken by Western Australia. 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. Find out what each agency does here.

The 1997 agreement set out the many ways in which the Western Australian Government looks after the World Heritage Area. These include the implementation of management and administrative structures and planning processes.

The Shark Bay World Heritage Area covers 2.2 million hectares, about 70% of which is marine, and has about 1500 km of coastline. 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.


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. Find out what these bodies do.

Management plans direct and guide agencies on how to meet international, national and state obligations for the care of the World Heritage Area. Go here for the latest plans. Go here to learn how the plans are implemented and learn more about tourism management here.

Want to know more about the management of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area? Click here for a list of contacts.