First Whale Shark of 2011 Spotted At Ningaloo

01-Mar-2011

NINGALOO'S first whale shark of 2011 has been spotted off the coast of Exmouth, hailing the early start of the annual whale shark season.



Ningaloo Reef plays host to the annual Whale Shark spotting season from March until mid JulyThe four metre juvenile was sighted in the Ningaloo Marine Park, just outside the reef on 15 February - an earlier than usual start to the season.

Australia's Coral Coast Chief Executive Officer, Mr David O'Malley said the whale shark season at the Ningaloo Marine Park was becoming longer and more successful each year. 

"Whale sharks have arrived earlier than previous years and hopefully they'll be around for a long season again this year," Mr O'Malley said. 

"Last year's whale shark season was a record season, with tours operating from mid March until mid July and sightings reported until late in the year," Mr O'Malley said.

"Many tour operators recorded a 100 per cent success rate for swimming with the whale sharks on tours that departed.

"More than 14,000 people went on whale shark tours last year, which was 1700 more passengers than the 2009 season.

Ningaloo Marine Park whale shark tours are tipped to start early next month in response to the early sightings of whale sharks in the area. 

Whale sharks are attracted to the Ningaloo Marine Park each year to feed on the rich nutrient waters created from the mass spawning of coral on the reef. 

Ningaloo Reef is one of the most reliable and easily accessible places in the world to swim with whale sharks, which are the largest fish in the sea, growing up to 14 metres in length.

"Swimming with these majestic gentle giants of the sea is an awe inspiring experience and should be on everyone's bucket list," Mr O'Malley said. 

"Qantas recently announced new flight services between Perth and Exmouth will start in late March, meaning the region will soon be serviced by two professional airlines, creating greater accessibility to the Ningaloo Marine Park in time for this year's whale shark season." 

People who swim with whale sharks are encouraged to upload their whale shark images onto Ecocean's online gallery at www.whaleshark.org, which catalogues and monitors whale sharks for research and conservation purposes. 

"Australia's Coral Coast has adopted a whale shark and we encourage others to adopt one of their own to ensure future conservation of the species," Mr O'Malley said. 

Visit www.westernaustralia.com or www.australiascoralcoast.com to start planning your next holiday.
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