The CSIRO and BHP are off tagging sharks and turtles at Ningaloo Reef

A Hawksbill sea turtle. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Australia’s peak science body, the CSIRO, and the world’s biggest miner, BHP, have joined forces to research the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringe reef in the world, extending for 300km along the northwest coast, and also sits near large oil and natural gas deposits.

This has led to some conflict between interests — the desire to extract profitable natural resources and the need to protect the local environment.

The five-year, jointly-funded $5 million research program will include both deep and shallow reef research, turtle and shark tagging and a doctorate scholarship scheme.

Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane, joined CSIRO Executive Director Environment, Dr Andrew Johnson, and BHP Billiton Petroleum General Manager, Doug Handyside to launch the partnership in Perth today.

Handyside says the investment in marine science will help the oil and gas industry better understand the reef and help target conservation efforts.

Andrew Johnson from CSIRO said the research would deliver the fundamental knowledge required to manage increasing and varied uses in the Ningaloo region.

“Our research presence at Ningaloo is now entering its tenth year, so we are very aware of the reef’s many uses – it is the way we manage and balance these different uses which is key to sustainable development,” Dr Johnson says.

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