Tourism Causing Behavioral Changes of Whale Sharks in Western Australia

by Isabelle Ng

Western Australia’s Ningaloo Marine Park (NMP) is one of the few locations in the world where whale sharks are known to aggregate, which makes it a popular destination for nature-seeking tourists. Tourism levels are high between March and July, when whale sharks aggregate in high nutrient waters. While tourism may benefit from these aggregations, the whale shark is threatened and listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, most likely a result of human impacts such as tourism. The whale shark tourism industry is managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife under a species and management program, which is supposed to exercise “sustainable best practices” through a code of conduct. Continue reading

Tourism Causing Behavioral Changes of Whale Sharks in Western Australia

by Isabelle Ng

Western Australia’s Ningaloo Marine Park (NMP) is one of the few locations in the world where whale sharks are known to aggregate, which makes it a popular destination for nature-seeking tourists. Tourism levels are high between March and July, when whale sharks aggregate in high nutrient waters. While tourism may benefit from these aggregations, the whale shark is threatened and listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, most likely a result of human impacts such as tourism. The whale shark tourism industry is managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife under a species and management program, which is supposed to exercise “sustainable best practices” through a code of conduct. Continue reading

Addressing Climate Change in Australian Marine Ecosystems

by Weronika Konwent

Australia’s diverse marine environment is under threat from varied effects of climate change such as marine heat waves, ocean acidification, floods, and tropical cyclones. Various organisms spanning many habitats are affected, including fish, seabirds, marine turtles, coral, and marine invertebrates, many of which are keystone species that influence the structure of a particular community. It is important to study and understand the impact of ecological changes on the habitat and its inhabitants in order to preserve them as effectively as possible. Continue reading

Under-reported Overfishing by Chinese Threatens World Fisheries Estimates

by Hannah Tannenbaum

Fisheries catch data are the only real means for the fisheries industry, economists, and environmentalists to ascertain the population status of fished stocks. Therefore, accurate reporting of catch data is of the utmost importance. It was discovered in 2001 that China was drastically over reporting their domestic catch in order to achieve the appearance of uninterrupted expansion and success. China has an immense fishing fleet, but is also outside of agreements regarding EEZ and FAO of the UN, and therefore their catch records are important for global estimates, but particularly unreliable as currently reported. While estimates have been made to correct for decades of over-reporting in Chinese domestic fisheries, they are also major participants in distant-water fisheries. Pauly et al. (2013) used statistical extrapolations to estimate the Chinese distant-water catches and found severe under-reporting compared to the figures reported to FAO. While the interpolations have high levels of uncertainty, they nonetheless suggest immense inaccuracy of global fisheries catch statistics which has wide implications for employment, economics and ecology. Continue reading

Hawaiian Marine Protected Areas Produce Spillover

by Katie Huang

Marine protected areas (MPAs) can be beneficial to fisheries through spillover effects, which occur when protected fish stocks recover and migrate into open areas. As a result, fishers tend to react by increasing fishing pressure near MPA boundaries to capitalize on these biomass gradients. To supplement previous research on spillover, Stamoulis and Friedlander (2013) studied a Hawaiian MPA with a new seascape approach that incorporated habitat variables, multiple scales of study, and information on fishing pressure. They took visual surveys of fish populations both targeted and not targeted for conservation along random transects and determined their biomass, species abundance, and density in protected and open areas. The authors found that all fish wellbeing measures were observed to be significantly higher inside the reserve. Also, as distance increased from the MPA boundaries, biomass decreased for resource fish but remained constant for non-resource fish, indicating the existence of a spillover gradient. Although fishing was more concentrated near MPA borders, current harvest rates are sustainable for the time being. The authors suggest that similar comprehensive studies be made throughout Hawaii but that further research should also include analysis on larval and egg export, a second benefit to fisheries besides spillover. Continue reading