The World Heritage listed Ningaloo Coast is set to become home to the first licensed swimming with humpback whales’ industry in Western Australia, following a successful four-year trial.
The Draft Management Program for managing interactions with humpbacks along the Ningaloo Coast has now been released for public comment.
The draft program focuses on commercial in-water humpback whale interactions from Exmouth and Coral Bay but also considers recreational activities, whale watching and other operations in the region.
Over the past four years during the trial, more than 900 in-water interaction tours with humpback whales were conducted with about 9500 in-water participants.
In-water interactions with humpback whales are licensed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ (DBCA). DBCA developed the draft program in consultation with Gnulli joint management partners, commercial operators and scientists.
DBCA will review public submissions and advertise a competitive process to allocate licences for commercial in-water humpback interaction tours starting from 2021.
The public comment period will close on February 13, 2020. To find out more and have your say, visit https://www.dbca.wa.gov.au/haveyoursay
As stated by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:
“The Ningaloo Coast is one of the only places in Australia where people can swim with these ocean giants, and over the trial period we have found very high visitor satisfaction with no indications of negative impacts on whales.
“Now we are looking to establish a long-term licensed industry that ensures the whales are protected and appreciated while providing an exceptional and unique tourism experience.
“Facilitating humpback whale experiences has been a major achievement of the McGowan Government, and establishing a long-term, viable industry will create jobs, offer additional experiences for visitors and boost the local and Western Australian economy.
“Our spectacular and pristine coastline is becoming more recognised globally, and it is exciting to see our tourism industries mature and align themselves with the growing demand for exceptional nature-based visitor experiences.”