Tourism helping WA's whale sharks and the best time to see them

The effects of overtourism may have abated temporarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but efforts around the world to embrace sustainable tourism also seem to be working.

One such example is off the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, which has bucked the global trend that has seen populations of whale sharks declining.

It is believed that the region’s best practice approach to tourism is helping the whale sharks to thrive.

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Conservation travel expert Janine Duffy said a recent study had found that whale shark numbers were increasing at Ningaloo Reef.

The study compiled photographs and information collected from Ningaloo Reef tourism operators and research groups, to analyse injuries to the sharks.

It found that 39 per cent of whale sharks had scars from big ships, but most of those were minor nicks and abrasions.

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“Top marine scientists have praised the management of the whale shark swim industry and said tourism is integral to whale shark health,” Ms Duffy said.

“Tour operators have also contributed vital data for another study on injuries to whale sharks, which showed that most injuries were inflicted by large ships.”

“Visiting Exmouth and Ningaloo to see whale sharks actually helps them,” explained Ms Duffy.

“Exmouth Dive and Whale sharks take photographs for scientists on every whale shark trip and are diligent at respecting the animal’s space,” she said.

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Ms Duffy said that March was the best time to visit the reef to see the whale sharks, but diver Debbie Ferguson said that the whale shark migration at Ningaloo was in full swing and had never been better.

“We’re seeing more whale sharks than ever, they are arriving earlier and leaving later,” Ms Ferguson said.

“We are excited to get more travellers involved in conservation of these magnificent animals, and other wildlife,” she said.

Have you ever visited Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia? Did you see the whale sharks? Is this part of Australia on your wish list?

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Written by Ben



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