1,644 tourists swam with humpback whales at Ningaloo in 2016
Increased booking for whale shark tours and accommodation
The Liberal National Government will proceed with a second year of the swimming with humpback whale trial in Ningaloo Marine Park in 2017.
Preliminary results from the inaugural trial from August to November 2016 were encouraging, with 1,644 people experiencing swimming with these giants of the ocean.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the trial, undertaken with licensed operators that already delivered swimming with whale shark tours, aimed to determine the environmental sustainability and risks to swimmers and whales.
"The Department of Parks and Wildlife regulates the interactions so the tour operators have rules in place to minimise the risk to swimmers and disturbances to humpback whales, while still ensuring visitors have a unique experience of nature," Mr Jacob said.
"Most visitor responses from a trial survey were complimentary about the experience and a social research study during the trial also gave positive results. On this basis, the trial will continue this year so we can gather more information about human interaction with these great creatures."
The Minister said the trial boosted nature-based tourism in the World Heritage-listed marine park, with a significant increase in whale shark tour passengers on the back of interest in the humpback swimming tours.
"Passenger numbers for whale shark tours were up by an unprecedented 32 per cent in 2016, giving a boost to the local Exmouth and Coral Bay economy," he said.
"More than 27,500 people took part in whale shark tours at Ningaloo, up from 20,834 in 2015 indicating the growing public awareness of Ningaloo and interest in the trial. This clearly demonstrates the economic benefits of the Liberal National Government's commitment to growing eco-tourism in this State."
An extra 3,500 passengers were recorded during the main whale shark season from March 1 to July 31 and the remainder throughout August, September and October, when the Government also trialled tours for in-water interaction with humpback whales.
Exmouth accommodation bookings for July to October 2017 through travel website Expedia are up by more than one-third compared with the same time last year, which is attributed to interest in the swimming with humpback whale trial.
Minister's office - 6552 5800