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This study focuses on visitor perceptions of hauled out sea lions on Carnac Island, Western Australia. Carnac Island lies close to the city of Perth and is an important haulout (resting) site for the Australian sea lion, which is recognized as a species in need of special protection. The island is easily accessible by pleasure craft as well as tour boats with many people visiting during the summer (November–April) period. A visitor survey was conducted in order to obtain information on visitor expectations of sea lion viewing, the nature of visitor experience, perceptions of visitor impacts, and views on management. Up to 80% of visitation to the island was by private boat owners and 73% of respondents expected to view sea lions on the beach. Most respondents believed that their presence did not disturb the sea lions, although 78% stated that they observed other people disturbing the sea lions. The survey indicated a high degree of visitor satisfaction. Most respondents were of the opinion that 5 m or less was a safe distance to approach sea lions, in contrast to a recommended approach safe distance of more than 5 m promoted by the state wildlife agency. Visitors supported ranger presence and the provision of more information about sea lions. Management recommendations include the initiation of a visitor monitoring plan, the development of a sea lion interpretation program, increased ranger presence, and a system of training and accreditation for tour guides utilizing Carnac Island.
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Keywords: Australian sea lion; Carnac Island; Human impacts; Human-wildlife interactions; Neophoca cinerea; Visitor surveys; Western Australia; Wildlife disturbance; Wildlife management; Wildlife tourism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: *Jean-Paul Orsini and Associates, Swanbourne, Western Australia, 6010, Australia 2: †School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, 6150, Australia

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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  • Tourism in Marine Environments is an interdisciplinary journal dealing with a variety of management issues in marine settings. It is a scientific journal that draws upon the expertise of academics and practitioners from various disciplines related to the marine environment, including tourism, marine science, geography, social sciences, psychology, environmental studies, economics, marketing, and many more.
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