Multi-year impacts of ecotourism on whale shark (Rhincodon typus) visitation at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Rob Sanzogni, Mark Meekan, Jessica Meeuwig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2015 Sanzogni et al. In-water viewing of sharks by tourists has become a popular and lucrative industry. There is some concern that interactions with tourists with ecotourism operations might harm sharks through disruption of behaviours. Here, we analysed five years of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) encounter data by an ecotourism industry at Ningaloo Reef,Western Australia, to assess the impact of ecotourisminteractions on shark visitation, within the context of the biological and physical oceanography of the region. Our data base consisted of 2823 encounter records for 951 individual whale sharks collected by ecotourismoperators between 2007 and 2011.We found that total encounters per whale shark and encounters per boat trip increased through time. On average, whale sharks re-encountered in subsequent years were encountered earlier, stayed longer and tended to be encounteredmore often within a season than sharks that were only encountered in a single year. Sequential comparisons between years did not show any patterns consistent with disturbance and the rate of departure of whale sharks from the aggregation was negatively correlated to the number of operator trips. Overall, our analysis of thismulti-year data base found no evidence that interactions with tourists affected the likelihood of whale shark re-encounters and that instead, physical and biological environmental factors had a far greater influence on whale shark visitation rates. Our approach provides a template for assessing the effects of ecotourism interactions and environmental factors on the visitation patterns ofmarinemegafauna over multiple years. Copyright:
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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Whales
Sharks
ecotourism
Western Australia
Reefs
reefs
Oceanography
Boats
sharks
tourists
Industry
Agglomeration
Water
industry
environmental factors
Rhincodon typus
oceanography
boats
Databases
Ships

Cite this

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title = "Multi-year impacts of ecotourism on whale shark (Rhincodon typus) visitation at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia",
abstract = "{\circledC} 2015 Sanzogni et al. In-water viewing of sharks by tourists has become a popular and lucrative industry. There is some concern that interactions with tourists with ecotourism operations might harm sharks through disruption of behaviours. Here, we analysed five years of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) encounter data by an ecotourism industry at Ningaloo Reef,Western Australia, to assess the impact of ecotourisminteractions on shark visitation, within the context of the biological and physical oceanography of the region. Our data base consisted of 2823 encounter records for 951 individual whale sharks collected by ecotourismoperators between 2007 and 2011.We found that total encounters per whale shark and encounters per boat trip increased through time. On average, whale sharks re-encountered in subsequent years were encountered earlier, stayed longer and tended to be encounteredmore often within a season than sharks that were only encountered in a single year. Sequential comparisons between years did not show any patterns consistent with disturbance and the rate of departure of whale sharks from the aggregation was negatively correlated to the number of operator trips. Overall, our analysis of thismulti-year data base found no evidence that interactions with tourists affected the likelihood of whale shark re-encounters and that instead, physical and biological environmental factors had a far greater influence on whale shark visitation rates. Our approach provides a template for assessing the effects of ecotourism interactions and environmental factors on the visitation patterns ofmarinemegafauna over multiple years. Copyright:",
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Multi-year impacts of ecotourism on whale shark (Rhincodon typus) visitation at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. / Sanzogni, Rob; Meekan, Mark; Meeuwig, Jessica.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 10, No. 9, 2015, p. 1-18.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AB - © 2015 Sanzogni et al. In-water viewing of sharks by tourists has become a popular and lucrative industry. There is some concern that interactions with tourists with ecotourism operations might harm sharks through disruption of behaviours. Here, we analysed five years of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) encounter data by an ecotourism industry at Ningaloo Reef,Western Australia, to assess the impact of ecotourisminteractions on shark visitation, within the context of the biological and physical oceanography of the region. Our data base consisted of 2823 encounter records for 951 individual whale sharks collected by ecotourismoperators between 2007 and 2011.We found that total encounters per whale shark and encounters per boat trip increased through time. On average, whale sharks re-encountered in subsequent years were encountered earlier, stayed longer and tended to be encounteredmore often within a season than sharks that were only encountered in a single year. Sequential comparisons between years did not show any patterns consistent with disturbance and the rate of departure of whale sharks from the aggregation was negatively correlated to the number of operator trips. Overall, our analysis of thismulti-year data base found no evidence that interactions with tourists affected the likelihood of whale shark re-encounters and that instead, physical and biological environmental factors had a far greater influence on whale shark visitation rates. Our approach provides a template for assessing the effects of ecotourism interactions and environmental factors on the visitation patterns ofmarinemegafauna over multiple years. Copyright:

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