Key Industries



Tourism is a vital industry in Shark Bay. The industry is based on the area’s World Heritage status and unique natural attractions, including the stromatolites, wildflowers, native animals, Monkey Mia dolphins, dugongs, whales, turtles, manta-rays and much more. 

Tourism Western Australia estimates that on average, across 2008, 2009 and 2010, there were 98,500 visitors per year to the Shire of Shark Bay.  Domestic visitors account for the largest proportion (63%) of tourist to Shark Bay.  Across 2008, 2009 and 2010 there were on average 284,700 (75%) domestic visitor nights per year to the area compared to 93,900 international visitor nights.

The average length of stay for domestic visitors across 2008, 2009 and 2010 was 4.6 nights and 2.6 for international visitors.  The average number of visitors to the Shark Bay area has decreased from  an average of 108,600 visitors per year in 2005 and 2006 to an average of 98,500 visitors per year in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The average length of stay for visitors has also decreased from an average of 5.3 nights in 2005 and 2006 to 4.6 nights in 2009 and 2010.

* Source: Tourism Western Australia, Shark Bay Local Government Area Fact Sheet 2010,

Percentages and figures may not add up to total due to rounding

(1) Overnight Domestic Visitors Definition: Australian residents aged 15yrs and over who spent at least one night away from home in Western Australia

(2) Overnight International Visitors Definition: International visitors aged 15 yrs and over who spent at least one night in the region



Shark Bay Beach Seine and Mesh Net Managed Fishery

The Shark Bay Beach Seine and Mesh Net Managed Fishery (SBBSMNF) is based at Denham and uses a combination of beach seine and haul net gears in the waters of inner Shark Bay. Four main species/groups are taken by the fishery: whiting, sea mullet, tailor and yellowfin bream. Small quantities of other assorted species (e.g. garfish and trevallies) are also caught.

In 2012, of the 12 SBBSMNF licenses, only six vessels were routinely involved in fishing. Total fishing effort declined significantly in 2012 (664 boat days) compared with 2011 (1,002 boat days) and 2010 (1,081 boat days). This approximate 34% decrease in overall effort can be mostly attributed to one particular vessel that had been highly active historically, that did not fish at all in 2012.

Currently around 20 fishers are employed in the SBBSMNF based on six fishery licenses actually operating. Fishing and associated fish processing is an important source of local employment - the fishery, although relatively small-scale, makes a significant contribution to the Denham economy and community.

The total catch ( all species combined) taken by SBBSMNF licensed vessels in 2012 was 188 t which represents an approximate 28% decrease on the total catch taken in 2011. This total catch comprised 116 t of whiting, 40 t of sea mullet, 16 t of tailor, 9 t of western yellowfin bream and 6 t of other mixed scalefish species that included 1.5 t of pink snapper (taken as bycatch in net fishing gears).

The overall value of the Shark Bay Beach Seine and Mesh Net Managed Fishery in 2012 was estimated at $1.5 million.


Trigger Level  (kg/boat day)












































*Source: Department of Fisheries State of the Fisheries report 2011/12        

Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Fishery

The Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Fishery encompasses commercial and recreational (line) fishing for demersal scalefish in the continental shelf waters of the Gascoyne Coast Bioregion.

Since 1 November 2010, the Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery (GDSF) has incorporated the pre-existing pink snapper quota system from the Shark Bay Snapper

Managed Fishery (SBSF) plus the previously open access area south of Coral Bay.

Commercial vessels in these waters historically focussed on the oceanic stock of pink snapper during the winter months.

Inner Shark Bay Scalefish Fishery

The Inner Shark Bay Scalefish Fishery encompasses commercial and recreational fishing for scalefish species within the waters of the Eastern Gulf, Denham Sound and Freycinet Estuary in inner Shark Bay This includes the activities of the Shark Bay Beach Seine and Mesh Net Managed Fishery\ (SBBSMNF) and the Inner Shark Bay Recreational Fishery.

Shark Bay Recreational Fishery

The ‘inner Shark Bay recreational fishery’ encompasses the recreational fishing activities undertaken within the Shark Bay Marine Park and the waters of Denham Sound. Most recreational fishing is boat-based (rod and line, handline) with a minor shore-based (rod and line) component. A limited number of licensed charter vessels operate out of Monkey Mia and Denham . A range of species are regularly caught by boat-based recreational fishers with principal target species being black snapper (blue-lined or grass emperor), pink snapper, whiting, and blackspot tuskfish (bluebone). 

For most species, the recreational fishery is managed using the normal combination of daily bag, possession, size and gear limits. For pink snapper more complex arrangements are used within the Eastern Gulf, Denham Sound and Freycinet Estuary. These stocks are managed separately with explicit Total Allowable Catch (TAC) targets. In 2010, the TACs for pink snapper were as follows:

Eastern Gulf - 15 tonnes (approx. 12 tonnes recreational, 3 tonnes commercial)

Denham Sound - 15 tonnes (approx. 12 tonnes recreational, 3 tonnes commercial)

Freycinet Estuary-  5 tonnes (approx. 1,400 fish, i.e. 1,050 recreational and 350 commercial)

Recreational catches of pink snapper were assumed to be similar to those estimated in 2010 (no survey undertaken in 2011) and therefore within the respective TACs in each area. In 2011, a total of 478 applications were received for

Freycinet Estuary management quota tags with a total of 944 tags (total available 1,050) allocated to recreational fishers.

While an actual dollar value cannot be assigned to the fish taken recreationally in inner Shark Bay at this time, the availability of fish underpins the tourism industry and generates significant income for the regional economy 


Pastoral leases occur in, and adjacent to, the World Heritage Property. The Shark Bay pastoral industry is one of the Shark Bay's earliest and longest running industries and was based on wool production, however due to low wool prices substitution of cattle and goats for sheep has occurred. There are currently eleven pastoral leases in various stages of stock activity with most currently raising and selling goats.

In 2011/12 the total for livestock slaughtered and other disposals and livestock products for the whole of the Gascoyne region was $29.78 million. This represents 2.2% of the total value in Western Australia.

In recent years a number of pastoral stations or parts of stations have been set aside or identified as potential areas for conservation.  As part of the 2015 pastoral lease renewal negotiations, arrangements for the acquisition and management of pastoral leases or parts of leases for conservation purposes will take effect.


Non Residential Building Approvals

Total non-residential building approvals in the Shire of Shark Bay for  2013  were valued at $1.02 million.  While no non-residential building permits were issued in 2012, over the past five years Shark Bay has had significant public buildings constructed being: Shark Bay Recreation Centre 2011 and Community Hall at Useless Loop 2013.

Residential Building Approvals

Total residential building approvals in the Shire of Shark Bay for  2013 were valued at $1.3 million.  While this represents a significant increase of 3,585% over the previous year (2012) when building approvals were valued at $0.3 million it is due to a 'one off ' construction of employee housing at Useless Loop.

The completion of a Department of Housing project and the completion of private dwellings at the Denham Estate (Stella Rowley Drive) development has contributed to the fall in recent years of residential building approvals.

*Source: Shire of Shark BAy


Mineral and Petroleum industries that make up the total production value in the Shire of Shark Bay are salt and limestone/limesand production.  The Useless Loop Salt Mine, operated by Mitsui, currently produces approximately 1.3 million tonnes of salt per year  which is it's plant capacity. Shark Bay salt is sold in some industrial markets but is predominantly used in high-end food markets in Japan and other Asian countries. Food manufacturers value its distinctive texture and purity. As Western Australia is close in proximity to its largest markets, demand for salt is likely to increase in the future.












Value of Production ($m)











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*Source: Department of Mines and Petroleum with further estimates by the Department of Regional Development

The Shire of Shark Bay currently contributes 0.1% of the State's total mineral production by value.

Gunson Resources - Coburn Heavy Mineral Sands Project

The Gunson Resources Ltd Coburn Project (Mineral Sands) commenced exploratory drilling in 2000 and has identified a major heavy mineral sand deposit known as Amy Zone, which is over 35 kilometres long, up to 3 kilometres wide and between 10-50 metres thick.  Gunson completed a bankable feasibility study in December 2004 showing that Amy Zone can support a high volume, low cost, long life mining operation producing quality mineral products.  It is currently the world's third largest zircon development project.  

In May 2006, the Western Australian Environment Minister granted approval for the proposed mine, subject to EPA approval of 15 environmental management plans. Approximately two thirds of the Amy Zone has government ministerial approval for mining.

Gunson completed a Definitive Feasibility Study on the Project in 2009. This study revealed that the Amy Zone could support a high volume, low cost, long life mining operation that produces quality heavy mineral products.

An offtake agreement for 54,000 tonnes per annum of the ilmenite product was signed with the world's largest pigment producer, DuPont, in 2012 and negotiations for the remainder of the ilmenite and the HiTi product are in progress.

The Company is currently seeking to attract a strategic partner to help fund the project development in return for a significant equity interest and/or assured long term supplies of zircon and titanium dioxide products.

* Source: Gunson Recourses Ltd,