Whaleshark Research

Marine conversation biologist Brad Norman on a research trip


Whale Shark filter feeding plankton


Whake Sharks gliding in the bright blue ocean


ECOCEAN (Australia) is a non-government, not-for-profit organization based in Western Australia working towards scientific research,  education  and conservation  of the marine environment.

ECOCEAN (Australia) was founded by marine and conservation biologist Brad Norman who also helped establish the partner organisation ECOCEAN (USA). ECOCEAN’s flagship species is the iconic yet threatened whale shark (Rhincodon typus).

Since ECOCEAN has been studying the whale shark population off Ningaloo more than 1000 different individual whale sharks have been identified from the region; a population that has been continuously monitored over the past 20 years with the great support of the general public.


ECOCEAN is an affiliate group of the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA). CCWA is Western Australia’s peak non-government environment group.


Whale Shark spotted in Exmouth, Western Australia

ECOCEAN established the largest global monitoring program for
whale sharks and has since identified 5000+ individuals from over 50 countries.

A large part of ECOCEAN’s focus has been the whale shark population found off the Ningaloo coast in northwest Western Australia, where ECOCEAN has been undertaking a study since 1995. Our work has also been successful in collecting other Australian (and global) sightings of whale sharks for inclusion in the largest database of its kind; the on-line facility known as the ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-identification Library.

ECOCEAN nominated the whale shark to be listed as vulnerable and migratory in Australia under the EPBC Act in 2001
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ECOCEAN (Australia) works hand in hand with its partner group ECOCEAN (USA)to promote and maintain this ‘citizen science’ project to assist efforts to ensure the long-term conservation of this unique and threatened species.

Brad Norman collects a photo-id of a whale shark at Ningaloo. Photo courtesy of Kurt Amsler, Rolex Awards.

Brad Norman collects a photo-id of a whale shark at Ningaloo. Photo courtesy of Kurt Amsler, Rolex Awards.


Exmouth Coastline where there are regular Whale Shark sightings!

ECOCEAN staff and volunteers spend at least 4 months every year in the field, based in Exmouth, continuing our research and collecting important data on the biology and behavior of the whale shark. The remainder of the year is spent collating our field data, raising the necessary resources to continue the organization, and increasing community awareness for the whale shark and the marine environment in general through various education outreach programs.


Meet ‘Stumpy’ and his friends – some of the regular visitors to Ningaloo. Stumpy was first seen in 1995 and continues to return to Ningaloo on a regular basis.
Follow his sightings now through our Library and read more About us here.