- Four tour operators chosen for licensed swimming with sea lions trial
- Three operators at Jurien Bay and one at Shoalwater Islands Marine Park
- Trial will focus on visitor safety as well as the conservation of sea lions
- New management program for seal interactions has been approved
Four tour operators have been chosen including Perth Wildlife Encounters for Shoalwater Islands Marine Park and Turquoise Safaris, Jurien Bay Oceanic Experience and Lobster Shack for Jurien Bay Marine Park.
Seals are protected in WA, with the public required to keep a minimum distance of 50 metres in the water, 100 metres in a vessel and 10 metres on land. The trial will allow licensed tour operators to get swimmers closer, while managing visitor and seal safety.
Participating tour operators will be licensed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), with licence fees reinvested into seal research and conservation. If the trial is successful, it will transition to a licensed industry like Ningaloo's humpback and whale shark interaction tours.
DBCA is working with selected trial operators to finalise licence conditions. Safety is a priority with a trained in-water guide required and size limits for tourist groups. Participants must keep a distance of at least 10 metres from the animals. Interaction locations will be away from breeding areas.
The trial will bring a management framework to existing interactions with Australian sea lions and strengthen conservation outcomes.
The trial forms part of a new management program for a range of seal species. This involved a rigorous process and was shaped by lessons learnt in South Australia, where in-water interaction tours are licensed and have led to improved management outcomes.
To read the program, visit http://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/management/marine/marine-wildlife/503-seal-wise
Comments attributed to Environment Minister Reece Whitby:
"Seals are incredibly intelligent and curious creatures and that is why we need to make sure safety is a priority for both swimmers and the animals.
"Tourists can already swim with sea lions at Jurien Bay. This is about partnerships with industry and science to manage these interactions and could be expanded to other locations.
"Our biodiversity laws are there to protect wildlife, and this trial will allow licensed operators to manage human interactions with sea lions safely and ethically, respecting their natural behaviours.
"WA is a unique destination for wildlife experiences, and this is a great opportunity to interact with sea lions in their own environment while playing a part in safeguarding their protection."
Comments attributed to Tourism Minister Roger Cook:
"This is a fantastic tourism opportunity that could pave the way for a new licensed industry that will complement Ningaloo's popular humpback and whale shark swim tours.
"Our marine environment attracts visitors from right around the world, keen to experience wildlife encounters with whale sharks, humpbacks, manta rays and now seals.
"Not only is this a boost for local jobs but diversifies tourism offerings in Rockingham and Jurien Bay. It's a perfect example of what WA has to offer as part of our 'Walking On A Dream' tourism campaign."
Environment Minister's office - 6552 6300
Tourism Minister's office - 6552 6500