Whale shark tourism booming in WA

Mass coral spawning at Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef is drawing large numbers of whale sharks to the World Heritage-listed dive spot. Photo / Tourism Western Australia
Mass coral spawning at Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef is drawing large numbers of whale sharks to the World Heritage-listed dive spot. Photo / Tourism Western Australia

If you've ever wanted to dive at Western Australia's World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef, now may be the best time to do so.

Mass coral spawning has drawn large numbers of huge plankton-feeding whale sharks to the Gascoyne Coast, making it a dream destination for photographers and tourists.

Australia's Environment Minister, Bill Marmion, said increased nutrients in the water from the coral spawn had triggered an increase in activity of planktonic feeders.

"Ningaloo Reef is one of only a few places in the world where whale sharks regularly appear close to shore, where they are easily accessible to observers," he said.

Marmion said up to 150 species of coral will reproduce during the coral spawning period.

"What is particularly interesting about coral spawning is that this event is based on moon phases, with spawning taking place during neap tides, when the difference between high and low tides is least," he said.

The Department of Environment and Conservation says whale shark tourism at Ningaloo Marine Park hit record numbers in 2011, with 994 whale shark tours and nearly 17,500 passengers visiting the park.

- AAP

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