Ships rerouted to protect Ningaloo Reef

Updated: 2013-05-21 12:17

(Xinhua)

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SYDNEY - The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) on Tuesday announced the establishment of a recommended area for ships to help protect the world heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef from June 1, 2013.

The Marine Notice will advise ships to keep at least two nautical miles from the edge of Ningaloo Reef at its narrowest part, and 8-12 nautical miles along the remainder of the Ningaloo Coast, to reduce the risk of shipping accidents and ship-sourced pollution.

AMSA Chief Executive Officer Graham Peachey said the new area to be avoided was approved in late 2012 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized United Nations agency responsible for safe shipping.

"The Ningaloo Coast lies along a major coastal shipping route and it is frequented by ships servicing Australia's North West Shelf oil and gas industry,"said Peachey.

"The coastline's length and remoteness pose challenges to any incident response, so it is important we do what we can to protect the reef," he added.

Home to some 500 species of fish, manta rays and turtles, plus 300 varieties of coral, Ningaloo Reef stretches across 5,000 square kilometres of ocean in northwest Western Australia. It is one of the world's largest fringing reefs, famous for reef diving and docile whale sharks.

"The Ningaloo Coast is designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Sea Area (ESSA) under the Convention on Biological Diversity. This identifies the area for protection and maintenance of its biological diversity," said Peachey.

Peachey added that the ship routing measure would have minimal impact on shipping, adding a little over one nautical mile for ships traveling between Fremantle and north-west Australia to skirt further away from the reef edge.

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