A seven metre male whale shark tagged in the Ningaloo Marine Park and ‘adopted’ by Tourism WA has been named ‘Boo Boo’ in honour of a 15 year-old Perth boy who died six months ago from a brain tumour.
Trent D’Silva swam with the whale sharks at Ningaloo last year as a wish after he was diagnosed with the tumour.
“It was a highlight of his short life,” said Trent’s mother Leonna.
“When we saw the competition to name the adopted whale shark we thought it would be a lovely way to remember a wonderful boy. ‘Boo Boo’ was the nickname Trent was given by his sister, Courtney.
“We also want other families in similar circumstances to be able to enjoy the amazing experience we had up at Exmouth and Ningaloo, and we are working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to raise money for that.”
Tourism WA CEO Stephanie Buckland said more than 1,000 entries were received during the six week Facebook competition to name the whale shark, and an online poll of a final shortlist overwhelmingly supported the name Boo Boo.
“We think Boo Boo is a great name for our whale shark and thank the D’Silva family for sharing it with us. It is an honour to help them pay tribute to Trent in this way,” Ms Buckland said.
Tourism WA ‘adopted’ Boo Boo in partnership with whale shark research and conservation organisation ECOCEAN Inc.
“We wanted to share and support research into one of Western Australia’s most extraordinary visitor experiences, swimming with the whale sharks,” Ms Buckland said.
A satellite tag was placed on Boo Boo in the waters of the Ningaloo Marine Park in April this year by whale shark researcher Brad Norman from ECOCEAN, with the moment captured on film.
The tag is a new, less intrusive design which will release after about six months to minimise the impact on the fish.
Ningaloo Reef is one of the few places on Earth where people can swim alongside these gentle giants of the deep, which can grow up to 18 metres.
“The annual whale shark migration to Ningaloo is one of Western Australia’s truly extraordinary experiences and attracts visitors from around the world,” Ms Buckland said.
“The adoption and tagging of Boo Boo will support important research and conservation efforts to ensure the experience remains sustainable for future generations to enjoy. Currently very little is known about the migration patterns of whale sharks.”
One of ECOCEAN’s key initiatives is its whale shark photo-identification library, a visual database of whale shark encounters, which welcomes photos from members of the public. The spots on each whale shark are unique and by receiving photo submissions of individual whale sharks, the program can track their movements and population numbers.
Tourism WA has also developed a Facebook app to show ECOCEAN’s research and conservation efforts, as well as enable the agency’s Facebook community to share whale shark experiences.
Whale sharks visit the warm waters of Ningaloo Reef each year between April and July, during which time visitors can swim with them on dedicated eco tours departing from Exmouth and Coral Bay. For more information on this experience and holidaying in Western Australia visit www.westernaustralia.com.
Facebook users can find out more about extraordinary WA at https://www.facebook.com/ExtraordinaryWesternAustralia.
Whale shark facts:
• Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea, growing up to 18 metres long
• Ningaloo Reef is one of only a few places in the world where whale sharks appear regularly in any numbers, in near-shore waters where they are easily accessible to observers
• Mass coral spawning in March/April each year triggers the arrival of the whale shark to Ningaloo Reef
• While the official whale shark tourism season is from April to July, sightings can be made as early as March and as late as September
• Whale sharks are protected in Australian waters under State, Federal and International legislation. A licensing system was introduced in 1993 for all whale shark tours in Western Australia
• To learn more about Boo Boo go to http://www.whaleshark.org/individuals.jsp?number=A-546