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The new string ray (Neotrygon sp.) discovered at Ningaloo Marine Park, WA.
Photo: Jeremy Vaudo.

Scientists have discovered a new species of stingray at the World Heritage-nominated Ningaloo Marine Park.

Environment Minister Donna Faragher said the new ray was part of the maskray family and with a wingspan of 30cm, it was much smaller than most rays found at Ningaloo.

Mrs Faragher said the find highlighted the importance of the Ningaloo Marine Park…

“It is an area of outstanding beauty, biological richness and international geological significance,” she said. “We need to ensure it is protected and conserved.”

The Ningaloo Marine Park was part of a 710,000ha area of land and sea, including the Ningaloo Reef, Cape Range and the Muiron Islands off Exmouth which was nominated for the World Heritage list last month.

The Paris-based United Nations World Heritage Committee will spend 18 months evaluating the nomination before deciding whether to grant Ningaloo World Heritage status.

If successful, it will join 17 Australian sites already on the list, including Shark Bay and Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks.

The discovery of the new ray at Ningaloo was made during a series of dive surveys conducted by the CSIRO in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Conservation and the WA Marine Science Institution.

CSIRO scientist Will White said the discovery proved there was still a lot to learn about sharks and rays which live in the area.

“Since the find at Ningaloo, we have been able to establish that this species also exists 400km further south in Shark Bay,” Dr White said.