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Spatial footprint and temporal variability of recreational usage of a remote fringing reef in North-Western Australia

Smallwood, C., Beckley, L. and Moore, S. (2008) Spatial footprint and temporal variability of recreational usage of a remote fringing reef in North-Western Australia. In: 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, 7 - 11 July, Fort Lauderale.


Worldwide, studies investigating recreational usage of coral reefs have not previously been a priority for research. However, increased visitation and documented impacts from these activities have highlighted the importance of collecting relevant usage data at a scale appropriate for management. Ningaloo Reef is a remote fringing reef which extends 300 km along the coast of north-western Australia and supports several diverse ecosystems. Although located in an isolated arid region with a permanent population of only 10 000 people, this is supplemented each year by ~ 200 000 visitors. The fringing nature of the reef, which encloses a sheltered lagoon area with an average width of 2.5 km, results in a high level of accessibility for visitors participating in marine recreational activities. Planning for the future sustainable development of the Ningaloo coast is ongoing and a project to map the spatial footprint of marine resource usage in the lagoon is underway. Part of this study included ~1 100 face-to-face questionnaire interviews with recreational participants collected throughout 2007 along the length of the reef system. Snorkelling, fishing, diving, kayaking, surfing as well as charter tours for coral viewing and manta rays were some of the popular activities recorded. As well as seasonal variation in recreational usage, demographics, visitation patterns and origin of visitors, there was also spatial variation in these patterns along the coastline. Although studies of recreational activity have been undertaken previously in the region, this is the first study that clearly displays the spatial relationship between these activities, access points and various accommodation types. The study has also allowed popular usage nodes, which could be vulnerable to impacts from recreational activities, to be identified. The fine-scale resolution and geo-referenced nature of this dataset makes it particularly pertinent to site-specific planning and management of Ningaloo Reef and the adjacent coastline.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Conference Website:
Notes: Oral presentation
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