We have all heard stories about divers*** off whale sharks and going
for a ride. I often wonder if those divers ever think what it would be
like to be walking along the street and suddenly grabbed and jumped on.
Due to the lack of research available on whale sharks, the effect of
riding whale sharks has not been scientifically determined. Many divers
hide behind this and get carried away with the euphoria of the encounter.
Without protection from abuse, divers may actually chase off whale sharks
from their existing feeding grounds, denying the experience of a whale
shark encounter to future diver.
In Australia the Western Australian state government, in consultation with
dive shop owners and whale shark tour operators, have taken steps to
conserve this marine resource.
As a result, whale sharks are fully protected in Western Australia under
the Wildlife Conservation Act and CALM (Department of Conservation and
Land Management) Act.
The following code of conduct to minimise the risk of injury and to
prevent the fish from being harmed or disturbed.
Code of Conduct for boats approaching whale sharks.
Exclusive Contact Zone
- ,An exclusive contact zone of 250 meter radius applies around any whale shark.
- Only one vessel at a time may operate within the zone for a maximum time
of 90 minutes and at a speed of 8 knots or less
- the first vessel within that zone will be deemed to be 3in contact2.
The second vessel to arrive must keep a distance of 250 meters from the
shark, and any others must be 400 meters from the shark.
- 3In contact vessel and tender to approach from ahead of the shark1s
direction of travel
- 3In-contact2 vessel and tender must remain over 30 meters from the shark
Swimmers in the Contact Zone
- Must not attempt to touch or ride on a whale shark, restrict the normal
movement of behaviour of the shark, or approach closer than 3 meters from
the head or body and 4 meters from the tail.
- Must not undertake flash photography or use motorised propulsion aids.
- Are limited to a maximum of 10 people in the water at any one time.
Hopefully with the observation of these rules, divers will be able to swim
with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef well into the future.
3Take Photographs and Leave Bubbles.2
Peter Harrison, Exmouth Diving Centre
Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
(commercial and information site)
The rules have been adapted from : Whale Sharks Ningaloo - A Guide for
Passengers of Commercial Tours, Department of Conservation and Land