5th  International Whale Shark Conference Logo

Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area 28 - 31 May 2019

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From 28-31 May 2019, the town of Exmouth in the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area will welcome delegates to the 5th International Whale Shark Conference (IWSC5), a meeting of the world's leading whale shark scientists, conservationists, natural resource managers and tourism managers. This is the fifth such conference to be held, following on from the successful IWSC4 held in Doha, Qatar in 2016. This is also the first international conference of this type to be held in Exmouth and at the new Ningaloo Centre. This conference is timed to showcase Ningaloo's world's best practice whale shark management program and will follow the Ningaloo Whaleshark Festival, an annual community event that celebrates these magnificent animals.

Whale sharks, the world's largest fish, are listed as Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, yet very little is known of whale shark biology and ecology. IWSC5 will bring together local scientists, researchers and postgraduate students to interact with international colleagues and collaborators to explore all aspects of whale shark biology and ecology and how this can translate to direct, on-ground conservation efforts. Delegates from around the world will be treated to four days of presentations, workshops, social functions and a day on the water to experience the world renowned Ningaloo whale shark tourism industry to forge new relationships and collaborations and debate ideas.

A core focus of IWSC5 will be bringing together end users of the science being presented, such as tourism managers, marine park managers and conservation groups. This will improve the uptake and application of research and help develop collaborations between research scientists and managers and industry.


Organising Committee: Arvid Hogstrom (chair), Dani Rob, Michele Thums, Sharon Hann, Michael Husband, Jacinta Overman, Jaci Cutler.

Scientific Committee: Mark Meekan (Australia, chair), Richard Pillans (Australia), Brad Norman (Australia), Jennifer Schmidt (USA), Simon Pierce (Mozambique), David Rowat (Seychelles), Deni Ramirez-Macias (Mexico), Kelly Waples (Australia), Peter Barnes (Australia).

Keynote Speakers

Professor David Sims

Professor David Sims

Professor David Sims is a Senior Research Fellow at the Marine Biological Association (MBA) Laboratory in Plymouth, UK, and is Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Southampton's National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS).

His research focuses on behaviour and movement ecology of sharks, a main aim being to understand how movements, habitat selection and spatial re-distribution patterns are influenced by environmental and anthropogenic changes and the consequences for threatened species conservation. He is best known for using satellite telemetry (starting in 1999) and novel diffusion models to obtain unique insights into free-ranging shark behaviour, including his 25 year study of the planktivorous basking shark. He currently leads the Global Pelagic Shark Tracking Project involving over 150 scientists from 25 countries. He has authored more than 160 scientific papers including numerous articles in Nature, Science and PNAS. He is the recipient of several research awards including the FSBI Medal of the Fisheries Society of the British Isles (2007) and the Stanley Gray Silver Medal of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (2008).

Dr. Neil Hammerschlag

Dr. Neil Hammerschlag

Dr. Neil Hammerschlag is a marine ecologist and Research Associate Professor at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science and Abess Center for Ecosystem Science & Policy.

He also serves as Director of the Shark Research & Conservation Program at the University of Miami. Neil's research centers broadly on the behavioral ecology, conservation biology, and movement ecology of marine predators particularly sharks. His current research has three core themes: (1) understanding the ecological and evolutionary effects of sharks; (2) determining the biological drivers and conservation consequences of shark movement patterns; and (3) examining how urbanization affects the behavior and health of coastal sharks. He has projects currently underway in Florida, Bahamas, and South Africa. Neil's work is highly collaborative. He continues to publish his research in scientific journals including Science, Ecology, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Functional Ecology and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to his scientific research, Neil is dedicated to community outreach and public education.

Conference Venue

The conference will be held at the Ningaloo Centre, located on Murat Rd in Exmouth.

View location map


Fri 24 - Sun 26 May The annual Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival. This is not part of the official program for IWSC5, however delegates may choose to arrive earlier and join in the celebrations. See www.ningaloowhalesharkfestival.org.au for further information. Events include live music & corporate displays.

Monday 27th

  • Welcome drinks and ice breaker in the evening
  • Conference registration

Day 1 -
Tuesday 28th

  • Welcome and opening
  • Oral presentation sessions
  • Poster session in evening

Day 2 -
Wednesday 29th

  • Woodside Day on the Water
  • Public presentation evening "Profs and Pints"

Day 3 -
Thursday 30th

  • Oral presentation sessions
  • Official Conference Dinner

Day 4 -
Friday 31st

  • Workshops, to be confirmed

Saturday 1st June onwards

  • Optional tour activities


Abstract submission

  • Submissions must be made electronically via the form link below. No email submissions will be accepted
  • Call for abstracts open 1 September 2018.
  • Abstract submissions are now closed.


Registrations are now closed

Enquiries can be made at iwsc5@dbca.wa.gov.au.

Register for Event

Travel Subsidy

The 5th International Whale Shark Conference 2019 (IWSC5) will offer a limited number of travel subsidies to delegates from developing countries and for overseas students.

Applications are now closed.

Key Dates

  • Call for abstracts open 1 September 2018
  • Abstract submission closes 25 December 2018
  • Registration opens: 15 December 2018
  • Final date for registration 31 March 2019
  • Conference 27 - 31 May 2019

Travel Information

Getting there

How to get to Ningaloo, information and recommendations for transport alternatives.


Official conference hotel and how to book.

About Ningaloo

Learn more about the Ningaloo region.

Essential information

Visas, weather, dress code, currency, power adapters, security, emus!




Ningaloo Whale Shark Program


Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions is responsible for the management of whale sharks in Western Australian waters. The overarching vision for the management program is a healthy and natural whale shark population is maintained and supported by the management of a world-class and sustainable tourism industry which raises appreciation and understanding of whale sharks.


Day 2 of the official IWSC5 program is a Day On The Water! Included in your registration, all delegates will have the chance to join one of Ningaloo's whale shark tours for the day, to experience the industry first hand. All snorkelling gear is provided, more information will be available closer to the day so check back here later.


Visit the Parks and Wildlife Service's website to learn more about the management of whale sharks. View the management plan.


Parks and Wildlife Service Woodside Energy Santos
BHP Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) CSIRO Wildlife Computers
Australian Marine Parks Tourism WA
The Minderoo Foundation Perth Convention Bureau Shire of Exmouth
Kailis Seafood Ecocean