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Whale Shark Numbers Increase at Ningaloo
By Jason Heller, December 25, 2007 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Theage.com.au
The future for the gigantic whale sharks of the Indian Ocean looks good, according to the results of a recent study.

The 12-year study, published in the journal Ecological Applications, contradicts previous findings that the Ningaloo whale shark population, off the coast of Western Australia, is in decline.

Murdoch University marine scientist Brad Norman believes the population increase is a result of good environmental management in the region.

"The study suggests that the management practices at Ningaloo are working for the whale shark," Mr Norman said.

Mr Norman, along with US colleagues Jason Holmberg and Dr Zaven Arzoumanian, analysed 5,100 underwater images contributed by hundreds of researchers, divers and ecotourists between 1995 and 2006.

The researchers used astronomical software (originally developed for use with the Hubble space telescope) to recognise the unique pattern of spots on the skins of individual whale sharks.

Population models based on the photographs indicated a small increase in the number of whale sharks returning annually to the northern area of Ningaloo Reef during the past 12 years.

The authors of the study also discovered that approximately two-thirds of the sharks visiting the reef every year are returning visitors.



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