Mr McGowan announced today that he would reduce the number of licences issued to marine-based wildlife interaction tour operators in the Monkey Mia Bay from two to one, in the interests of the dolphin populations in the area.
“I will extend the two existing licences – which expire on June 30 – for another three months while an expression of interest process is undertaken to determine a new sole licensee,” he said.
The Minister made the decision after carefully considering wide-ranging advice on the best manner in which to license and manage tour boat activities into the future.
“Unfortunately, the research shows that both dolphin populations – the Red Cliff Bay dolphins and the Monkey Mia beach dolphins – are being affected by the tour boat activities,” he said.
“A study by Murdoch University researcher Dr Lars Bejder has found that the Red Cliff Bay dolphins have been using the area frequented by the tour vessels less and less.
“The same study also found that females exposed to the vessels had lower reproductive success than the females with less exposure.
“The new licence will strictly limit the number and time of dolphin interactions, as well as minimising engine and propeller impacts of tour vessels.
“I will also introduce a moratorium on any increased research vessel activity within the Red Cliff Bay area and seek a review of the operations of private and commercial fishing vessels.”
Mr McGowan said the Monkey Mia tourism industry was largely based on the dolphin experience and the withdrawal of one licence was a necessary sacrifice for the long-term sustainability of the area.
“I understand that this decision will mean some changes as there will be only be one operator but I must ensure that the natural asset, being the dolphins on which this experience is based, is afforded maximum protection,” he said.
“There is nothing to stop the businesses continuing with their other existing cruising and tourism activities within the region.
“We want to make sure that future generations are also able to enjoy the Monkey Mia dolphins.
“This is a tough decision to make but it is the right one.”