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    13058: Reviewing the impact of tourism on the whale shark population off the Ningaloo coast

    'Crittercams’ (cameras attached to whale sharks) help researchers observe whale shark behaviour during encounters with tourists. Courtesy ECOCEAN Inc.
    'Crittercams’ (cameras attached to whale sharks) help researchers observe whale shark behaviour during encounters with tourists. Courtesy ECOCEAN Inc.

    Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea, reaching lengths of 12 meters or more. The slow-moving filter feeders are migratory and considered vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

    ECOCEAN has been researching whale sharks for 18 years to determine what's required to successfully advance their conservation.

    This project will review five years' worth of data collected by electronic data-logging tags and 'Crittercams' (cameras attached to whale sharks) to determine the impact of tourism on the whale shark population at Ningaloo Marine Park.

    The electronic tags record a detailed 3D pattern of whale shark movement and provide information on their behaviour during encounters with tourists - showing if or how this changes from their natural behaviour.

    Study results will be provided to tour operators with encouragement (where appropriate) for voluntary implementation of minor amendments to current practices.

    Results will also be provided to the Department of Parks and Wildlife to inform future management and regulation of tourism practices.

    Investment: $ 30 000
    Delivery organisation: ECOCEAN Inc.
    Project duration: April 2014 - March 2015
    Location: Ningaloo Marine Park
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