Whale-swim trial hailed a tourism success
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.”
A humpback whale mother and calf off the Ningaloo coast.