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Impacts and risks associated with developing, but unsupervised, stingray tourism at Hamelin Bay, Western Australia

Newsome, D., Lewis, A. and Moncrieff, D. (2004) Impacts and risks associated with developing, but unsupervised, stingray tourism at Hamelin Bay, Western Australia. International Journal of Tourism Research, 6 (5). pp. 305-323.

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Interacting with stingrays at Hamelin Bay, in the south-west of Western Australia, appears to be substantially growing in popularity. Promotion of the rays is increasing through websites and brochures and larger tourism productions, such as the ‘Getaway’ television programme, have shown interest in the Hamelin Bay site. Yet there is still very little known about the impacts on rays (both behavioural and physical), risks to humans, or indeed the issues that provisioning stingrays can present. Although Shackley (1998) conducted an impact study of stingray provisioning in the Cayman Islands, provisioning activities at Hamelin Bay, and other areas in the southwest are unique because they are shore-based. As part of developing a profile of conditions at the Hamelin Bay provisioning site we investigated stingray numbers and their distribution in the area. We also collected data on the type and amount of provisioned food, investigated stingray behaviour and observed how tourists interacted with stingrays. It was shown through site profile data that rays are attracted to the site principally by food provisioning and secondarily by boats due to learned association with food. They are most common at the provisioning site in the middle of the day, as are peak visitor numbers.

Behavioural impacts on rays were found to be attraction to humans, resulting in aggression and hierarchy towards one another. Attraction to humans at the provisioning site reflected that the rays may be partially habituated. However, rays were also seen foraging naturally for food, indicating that they are not yet dependent on humans. Other potential impacts to rays include boat damage from pleasure craft, overfeeding, being fed the wrong food, damage from fishing hooks and risk of disease from foul water. Lesions on skin and permanent shoaling behaviour, as witnessed at other stingray provisioning sites, were not observed at Hamelin Bay. Management actions are recommended to reduce impacts on the rays, eliminate risks to visitors and increase visitor satisfaction.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Copyright: © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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