Pacific Conservation Biology Pacific Conservation Biology Society
A journal dedicated to conservation and wildlife management in the Pacific region.
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Manta ray tourism management, precautionary strategies for a growing industry: a case study from the Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia

Stephanie Venables A B E , Frazer McGregor C D , Lesley Brain D and Mike van Keulen C D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Marine Megafauna Foundation, Tofo Beach, Inhambane, Mozambique.

B School of Animal Biology, The University of Western Australia, Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

C Murdoch University Coral Bay Research Station, Coral Bay, WA 6701, Australia.

D School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, Perth, WA 6150, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: steph@marinemegafauna.org

Pacific Conservation Biology 22(4) 295-300 https://doi.org/10.1071/PC16003
Submitted: 21 January 2016  Accepted: 1 July 2016   Published: 5 August 2016

Abstract

Localised population declines and increased pressure from fisheries have prompted the promotion of manta ray interaction tourism as a non-consumptive, yet economically attractive, alternative to the unsustainable harvesting of these animals. Unfortunately, however, wildlife tourism activities have the potential to adversely impact focal species. In order to be sustainable, operations must be managed to mitigate negative impacts. A preliminary assessment of reef manta ray, Manta alfredi, behaviour identified short-term behavioural responses during a third of tourism interactions in the Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia. Although it remains unknown whether these responses translate to biologically significant impacts on the population as a whole, it is proposed that the precautionary principle be used to guide management intervention in the absence of conclusive evidence of the magnitude of tourism impacts. The principle supports the implementation of precautionary strategies to protect species and their environment from harm, even when the extent of the harm is yet to be confirmed. An increase in the level of industry management is recommended, including the implementation of a licensing system and adherence of all operators to a mandatory code of conduct during manta ray interactions. Considering the well designed and precautionary-driven management program of the Ningaloo whale shark tourism industry operating within the same marine park, a management program with the same underlying principles and objectives is deemed to be an ideal framework to build a comprehensive management plan for the manta ray interaction industry.

Additional keywords: Manta alfredi, precautionary principle, wildlife tourism.


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