Monkey Mia is a popular tourist resort located about 800 km north of Perth, Western Australia. The resort is 25 km northeast of the town of Denham in the Shark Bay Marine Park and World Heritage Site.
The main attraction is the daily feeding of the bottlenose dolphins that have been coming close to shore for more than forty years. Rangers from the Department of Environment and Conservation carefully supervise the process.
Mia is the Aboriginal term for home or shelter, while the Monkey part of the name is allegedly derived from a pearling boat called Monkey that anchored at the now Monkey Mia in the late 19th century, during the days when pearling was an industry in the region. However, the Nomenclature Advisory Committee of the Department of Lands and Survey has stated that the most likely origins are either the pet monkeys owned by early Malay pearlers who camped at the location, or as a colloquialism for "sheep", or that it was named for a schooner called Monkey that arrived in 1834.
The area was originally gazetted in 1890 and used as a base for the pearling and fishing industries. In the 1960s, a fisherman and his wife began feeding bottlenose dolphins when returning with their catch. As news of the dolphins coming inshore spread, visitors started to come to see them. In 1985, an information centre was built, and in 1988, a special state government grant was provided to develop roads, carparks, and facilities.
In November 1990, the waters adjoining Monkey Mia were declared a Marine Park managed by the Department of Conservation and Land Management.
In recent years, more attention has been given to the Aboriginal roots of the area and their knowledge of the local land. For visitors, the most visible evidence of this change is the culture walks, where visitors are taught to respect the land.
Due primarily to overpopulation and overtouristing, Monkey Mia is under threat. The dolphins themselves are threatened by fishermen's nets, increased boat traffic, and salt mining at nearby Useless Loop. The government is trying to reduce the amount of boat traffic in the area.
The region's viability as a tourist destination is often said to be threatened due to the advancing age of the dolphins; however, the immediacy of this risk has lessened because a number of calves have been born in recent years.
In 2005, significant concern was raised over the proposed expansion of the resort area and the management thereof with the EPA basing its recommendation on the Shark Bay Council's relinquishing of control. The Council's disagreement with the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) is centered on whether CALM has too much control of the area and the experience they are providing tourists to the region.