Scientists are calling for urgent research to protect Shark Bay from climate change as it continues to recover from a devastating marine heatwave. The Western Australian Marine Science Institution has outlined top priorities for scientific research with the release of its Science Plan for Shark Bay (Gathaagudu). WAMSI research director and the report’s chief author, Dr Jenny Shaw, said Shark Bay had come to be seen as a “canary in the coal mine” for climate change. “Shark Bay, or Gathaagudu to the Indigenous Malgana people, has the world’s largest and richest seagrass meadows, it’s home to the world’s biggest population of dugongs, it’s one of the few places globally with marine stromatolites — the oldest living lifeform — and has one of Western Australia’s most valuable fishing industries,” Dr Shaw said. “But we have seen how vulnerable it is following the marine heatwave and subsequent cyclones and flooding.” The UNESCO World Heritage site, was hit hard by a marine heatwave in 2011 and other extreme weather which destroyed seagrass — a vital part of the ecosystem. “The pressures facing Shark Bay urgently need to be addressed as they could cause widespread loss of key ecological values, fisheries, tourism, economic sustainability, regional cultural values and potentially its World Heritage status,” Dr Shaw said. “The Science Plan is the result of a review of research on the area over the past 70 years along with consultation with scientists, traditional owners and the broader Denham community, which identified 91 issues for research priority.” The plan can be found at wamsi.org.au.