With the Sculpture By the Sea exhibition captivating city dwellers this month, Western Australian researchers are using the opportunity to raise awareness about whale shark conservation.
“Stumpy is one of many whale sharks who make an annual trip to North West WA, much to the delight of tourists and locals,” said Murdoch University researcher Brad Norman, who is also the Director of Fremantle-based whale shark conservation group ECOCEAN.
“Whale sharks are Western Australia’s official marine emblem, but as a threatened species, there’s still so much we don’t know about them.”
Scientists from Murdoch University and ECOCEAN have launched a campaign to raise $25,000 for important whale shark research.
Funds will be used to tag Stumpy, named for his stumpy tail, during his visit to Ningaloo Reef. The cutting-edge technology will feed information back about his annual migration path, the depths he swims to and the ocean temperatures he experiences.
“An on-animal video camera will allow us to see what Stumpy sees as he travels through the ocean,” Mr Norman said.
“We may even be able to identify important breeding habitats and learn how whale sharks attract a mate.
“All of these things are still not known to science, but are crucial to conserving this threatened species.”
The research will also help determine whether whale sharks change their natural behaviours when humans swim with them.
“Anyone can make a difference to whale shark conservation, by contributing as little as $5,” Mr Norman said.
“There are a number of perks being offered, depending on the size of the contribution, though anyone who takes part has a chance to win a swim with a whale shark at Ningaloo.”