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January 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Ecotourism Doesnít Affect Whale Sharks

from the January, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Water-based ecotourism -- diving with sharks, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling with whales -- has gotten big over the past 20 years, and while it's great for the local economies, what is its effect on the animals on display?

To figure that out, Australian researchers examined whether encounters between ecotourists and whale sharks, classified as "vulnerable" on the Red List of Threatened Species, had bad results. They studied whale sharks aggregating at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, where up to 500 of them, mostly young males, feed between March and July. Using a photo database of individually identified whale sharks (boat videographers record each whale's sex, size and markings, and send images to the Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife), the researchers looked at 2,823 whalemeets- boat encounters between 2007 and 2011....


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