Whale-swim trial hailed a tourism suc­cess

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

The hump­back whale trial off the Nin­ga­loo Coast has been hailed a suc­cess by early in­di­ca­tors, though it has not come with­out a few un­fore­seen prob­lems.

Whale num­bers have dropped off in the past few weeks, prompt­ing op­er­a­tors to wrap up a block­buster sea­son.

Tourists en­joyed swim­ming with hump­backs, manta rays and whale sharks right up un­til mid-Novem­ber.

Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife whale shark con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer Dani Rob said the hump­back swim had been a huge learn­ing curve for the depart­ment and op­er­a­tors.

“We’ve worked very well to­gether as well as work­ing closely with re­searchers to give this trial the best chance of suc­cess and so far, so good,” she said.

“We’ve had ap­prox­i­mately 1600 peo­ple hop in with hump­backs dur­ing the sea­son and at this stage we are car­ry­ing out the as­sess­ment of that trial.”

Ms Rob said a side ben­e­fit of the hump­back swim was the pro­longed whale shark in­ter­ac­tions be­cause of tour op­er­a­tors keep­ing spot­ter planes in the air for longer.

On the down side, how­ever, the depart­ment has re­ported an in­crease in pri­vate ves­sel own­ers at­tempt­ing to swim with hump­backs off their own boats.

“Right from the word go, we knew for this trial to be a suc­cess we would have to have rig­or­ous re­search and mon­i­tor­ing pro­grams in place,” Ms Rob said.

“Over the sum­mer months, as part of the as­sess­ment of the trial, we will be look­ing at prob­lems which have arisen, which we might not have (fore) seen and one of those is the in­crease in peo­ple think­ing they can do that from their own ves­sels.

“That hasn’t changed — it is still il­le­gal to swim with whales and dol­phins from your own ves­sels.”

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

A hump­back whale mother and calf off the Nin­ga­loo coast.

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