The humpback whale’s kingdom is saved

21 December, 2021

Beslut har tagits om att skydda det omstridda kustområdet vid Exmouth Gulf i västra Australien, där bland annat knölvalar, valhajar och dugonger har hotats av planerade byggprojekt. Istället för saltanläggning och industrihamn blir det naturreservat och en marin park.

humpback whale
Over three thousand humpback whales come to Exmouth Gulf each year to give birth to their young. Photo: Blue Media Exmouth

The battle is over for Exmouth Gulf.

It will not be an industrial port, where the manatees today eat grass from the meadows on the bottom of the sea.

Nor will any salt plant be built, where the mangrove forest grows.

– Now we can finally breathe out, says the campaign leader behind “Protect Ningaloo”, Paul Gamblin, to Deep Sea Reporter.

Word had reached the environmentalists that something big was about to happen in Exmouth. Western Australian state premier Mark McGowan had booked a trip, along with his environment minister, up from Perth. The flight time is approximately two hours, one way.

– Our state premier is a very busy man, and that he chose to travel up here, it is a sign that the government supports Exmouth Gulf and it is very significant for us, explains Paul Gamblin.

The press conference took place outdoors, on a Friday afternoon in early December. In the background the waves roared and in the foreground the flies whizzed around the state premier’s face, which was accompanied by the classic Aussie hand wave.

– We will implement all recommendations from the EPA, says Mark McGowan, during the live streamed press conference.

pool moon
Photo: Blue Media Exmouth

The EPA is an authority that works to protect nature and provides independent environmental advice to the State Government of Western Australia.

Environment Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson says that the EPA has arrived at its recommendations by, among other things, consulting with the local population, companies in the region and indigenous peoples.

– They then wrote a report and it shows that Exmouth Gulf has an environment that is important to the whole world and an environment that is very fragile, says Amber-Jade Sanderson.

The decision by the government means that Qualing pool, which is home to the manatees, and where the Gascoyne Gateway deep water port was to be built, will become a nature reserve. And that the eastern side of the bay, which includes the site where K+S Salt Australia applied for permission to produce salt, will become a marine park.

Dugongs at the bottom off Exmouth Bay. Photo: Blue Media Exmouth

When the press conference was over, there were many intense hours for campaign manager Paul Gamblin and his colleagues. The phone rang suddenly.

– We worked on getting information out and explaining what had been decided so that everyone would understand. Later in the evening we went out and celebrated with a glass, says Paul Gamblin and smiles via the video link.

On Saturday morning, the following day, many Exmouth residents who have been fighting to protect Exmouth Bay gathered.

– We met on a beach. We were probably around 70 people. Everything was very spontaneous. Dogs were running around, we had our banners with us. It was so uplifting.

– We are part of a huge progress for Exmouth Gulf and Ningaloo, says Paul Gamblin and smiles again.

beach event
Exmouth residents gathered on the beach to celebrate the day after the announcement. Photo: Blue Media Exmouth

Text: Ulrika Eriksson
Photo: Blue Media Exmouth

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