‘OUTSTANDING’: Whale shark encounter near Lady Musgrave
It's a whale of a tale with a shark twist, and one that Brett Dart won't forget.
Mr Dart was boating with his partner just outside the Lady Musgrave Island lagoon, southwest of the island, when they had a close encounter with a whale shark.
He said they were only in about 40-50ft of water when the whale shark came within a foot of the boat.
Mr Dart said initially they thought it to be another type of shark, potentially a hammerhead; but it became clearer as the creature came closer.
Whale shark researcher Dr Brad Norman AM confirmed the sighting and said they were beginning to receive more reports of sightings along the east coast.
Dr Norman said they were eager to investigate trends and possible areas of importance for this endangered species.
Seemingly just popping up to look about, Mr Dart said it was "pretty cool" to see the whale shark and rare.
He said his boat was about 6m long and the whale shark was only about 5.5m so it was probably only young.
Being so close to the reef and young, Mr Dart said it was a good sign the reef was healthy and there was probably more whale sharks about.
In the video Mr Dart posted in a local community group, you can hear how in awe he is of the sighting, exclaiming "that is outstanding".
He said this was the first time he had spotted one near Lady Musgrave, usually he was treated to a manta ray sighting.
According to the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment whale sharks are rare, and prior to the mid-1980's, there had been less than 350 confirmed reports of whale sharks worldwide.
"This species is widely distributed in Australian waters. Although most common at Ningaloo Marine Park (and to a lesser extent at Christmas Island and in the Coral Sea), sightings have been confirmed further south than Kalbarri (on the mid-west coast of Western Australia) and Eden (on the New South Wales south coast)," the site reads.
"Whale sharks have also been recorded from Commonwealth waters between Australia and Indonesia."
If you happen to spot a whale shark, you are welcome to send information about the sighting to Dr Norman via emailing firstname.lastname@example.org