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Ningaloo Reef is a fringing coral reef located off the west coast of Australia, approximately 1200 km north of Perth. The reef is 260 km long and is Australia's largest fringing coral reef and the only large reef positioned very close to a landmass.
It is known for its seasonal feeding concentrations of the whale shark, and the conservation debate surrounding its potential tourism development. In 1987 the reef and surrounding waters were designated as the Ningaloo Marine Park.
Although most famed for its whale sharks which feed there during March to June, the reef is also rich in coral and other marine life. During the winter months, the reef is part of the migratory routes for dolphins, dugongs, manta rays and humpback whales. The beaches of the reef are an important breeding ground of the loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles. They also depend on the reef for nesting and food. The Ningaloo supports an abundance of fish (500 species), corals (300 species), molluscs (600 species) and many other marine invertebrate. The reef is less than half a kilometre offshore in some areas, such as Coral Bay.
The Australian Federal Minister for Environment Protection Peter Garrett announced on Wednesday 6 January 2010 that Ningaloo Reef would be nominated for World Heritage listing.
In the early 2000s there was much controversy about the proposed construction of a resort at an area called Mauds Landing, which was a major nesting ground of the loggerhead turtle. It was also feared that the resort would be generally degrading to the entire marine park. Ultimately the planned resort did not go ahead. However, developers continue to take an interest in the area.