After two weeks apart (and one big swim for me!), Kylie and I were reunited in Broome for the final leg of the ECOCEAN Road Trip. It was time to find out if the world’s biggest fish had been seen off the Broome coast before.
We spent the day at Broome Senior High School chatting to the Science classes. A handful of them had been to Ningaloo swimming with whale sharks, but most of them hadn’t and were quite intrigued with the 10m blow up whale shark that had shown up at their school for the day. The kids told me that they had seen humpback whales off their coast, but hadn’t sighted any whale sharks. I told them to keep an eye out for them as whale sharks are found all throughout the tropics, so it is very likely that they could be around Broome.
One of the teachers, John Clark, told us about his experiences with whale sharks. He lived in Exmouth during the 80’s and 90’s and worked alongside Geoff Taylor, one of the first people to start monitoring whale sharks off the Ningaloo Reef. So John knew what he was looking for when he moved to Broome not too long ago. John saw a whale shark off Gantheaume Point in April 2010 and one off Coconut Wells around the same time. So it seems whale sharks do pass by Broome!
Some of the art students added a Broome scene to the ECOCEAN trailer, including a saltwater crocodile, which are occasionally seen around Broome. Saltwater crocodiles are the world’s largest living reptile and as their name suggests, can live in saltwater. They do, however, usually reside in mangrove swamps and rivers. The ECOCEAN trailer is now completely covered in art work from all over WA! It looks fantastic and will be a good reminder of the Road Trip in the future.
Our final community meeting was held at Lotteries House in Broome, thanks to Malcolm Lindsay from Environs Kimberley. Community members from various environmental groups, including NRM Rangelands and the Roebuck Bay Working Group came along to hear about ECOCEAN’s work. No one at the meeting had heard of whale sharks off the Broome coast, but they had some good suggestions of people who might have such as charter boat companies and the Broome Aquaculture Centre. I will follow them up and add their information to our sightings database.
Well, thats the end of the ECOCEAN Road Trip! a HUGE thanks to the Garry White Foundation, Scitech (through the Inspiring Australia Initiative) and Mitsubishi Australia. Without your support, the Road Trip wouldn’t have happened and ECOCEAN wouldn’t have been able to learn more about the world’s biggest fish. Our results will contribute to the current knowledge of whale shark distribution around Western Australia.
Thanks to everyone who attended the ECOCEAN workshops, the school teachers who organised us to visit their schools, the wonderful friends who let us stay at their house and the best roadie ever – KYLIE!
Gulliver will be heading towards Exmouth for the Whale Shark Festival (May 24th-26th) – see you there!