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

Venables, S., McGregor, F., Brain, L. and van Keulen, M.ORCID: 0000-0001-6235-5788 (2016) Manta ray tourism management, precautionary strategies for a growing industry: a case study from the Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia. Pacific Conservation Biology, 22 (4). pp. 295-300.

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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.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © CSIRO 2016
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