The Ningaloo Region is world famous for its wildlife and marine megafauna (large sea creatures like manta rays, whale sharks, humpback whales, dugong, dolphins, and turtles). Tourist boats seeking to find these sea animals are increasingly colliding with them (known as boat strikes), which can not only injure and disturb marine megafauna, it can also impact their survival.
The Ningaloo Region in Western Australia is a major drawcard for tourists seeking to get close to nature, especially the abundant marine sea life. While the thriving local tourist industry depends on this wildlife, there have been an increasing number of incidents of boat strikes, which can cause deep lacerations, internal injuries or even fatalities for these creatures.
The research involved three components:
1. A literature review to identify factors that influence the occurrence of boat collisions, along with the different approaches for reducing recreational boats colliding with marine megafauna.
2. A practice review involving interviews with relevant practitioners to further explore approaches for reducing boat strikes with marine megafauna.
3. A behavioural identification workshop with relevant stakeholders.
The literature and practice reviews revealed four similar themes;
1. Factors influencing boat strikes included;
2. Strategies – and associated barriers – to reducing boat strikes included;
3. Strategies to address issues of non-compliance included regulations and licensing, sanctions, visible enforcement and awareness raising.
4. A "potential interventions" category also emerged from the practice interviews, with interviewees describing what they personally would consider useful for reducing boat strikes with marine megafauna in the Ningaloo Reef area. These included awareness raising, go-slow zones, greater resourcing and staff and empowering local knowledge and a sense of stewardship.
A combination of interventions could be deployed such as legislation, compliance, enforcement, signage, education, and strategies to nurture a sense of stewardship. An entry fee may also be part of this solution, to help bring in funds and signal to visitors that this is a special and fragile place.
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