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Marine Life & Conservation

LAMAVE reports increased injuries on endangered whale sharks in Oslob



A new study published by LAMAVE in the journal Aquatic Conservation, Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems presents the results of some of the work conducted since 2012 to assess the impacts of tourism activities on individual whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu.

The study found that individual whale sharks observed in barangay Tan-Awan, where the butanding are hand-fed daily to enable the tourism interactions, show a significantly higher number of injury, and scars than whale sharks in other non-provisioned (non-fed) tourism sites in Australia, Mozambique and the Seychelles. The study highlights the increased risk for these sharks that regularly visit the provisioning site in Oslob, and underline the urgent need to implement proper management interventions to guarantee the tourism activities do not harm these endangered animals.

The study presents results from photographic images of 152 individual whale sharks collected by the researchers from Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines over a period of 34 months (March 2012 – January 2015) in Oslob, Cebu. The team used photo-identification (photo-ID) to monitor individual whale sharks’ presence and movement and gathered data on the presence, size, type and location of scars on the whole body of these gigantic animals as well as the accumulation of these scars over time. These scarring patterns of whale sharks in Oslob were compared with quantitative studies from Ningaloo in Australia, the Seychelles and Mozambique, other known global aggregations where feeding the whale shark is prohibited and enforced.

The study found that whale sharks in Oslob were significantly more scarred than any other studied population: 95% of all whale sharks in Oslob had scars on their body, with abrasion being the most common type of scar. Most of the scars were categorised as nicks and abrasions and were most likely due to the close contact of ropes, small boats at the provisioning site. Lacerations, which fall into the major category, were observed on 28% of individuals, which is significantly higher than in Ningaloo and Mozambique. These were caused by boat propellers of different sizes and could be facilitated both from the habituation to boats caused by the practice of hand-feeding the whale sharks, as well as the increased traffic of motorized vessels in the surroundings of the provisioning area.

Whale sharks that were observed more frequently in the interaction area showed a significantly higher rate of scarring compared to individual sharks that were seen less frequently in the area; these regular visitors to Oslob accumulated scars over the observation period and suggest a direct causal link between the exposure to the tourism activities in Barangay Tan-Awan and scarring rates. Scars and wounds, even when non-lethal, may pose a serious risk to these endangered species, increasing the physiological stress of the animals, facilitating the contraction of diseases carried by pathogens like virus and bacteria and decreasing overall the health of the affected individuals.

Scars on the head and mouth of a whale shark in Oslob, Cebu at different stages of inflammation and tissue reaction. These scars are caused by continuous contact and rubbing against hard surfaces like outriggers and boat hulls, and are similar to what observed in whale shark kept in captivity in aquaria. Credit: ©LAMAVE

“This study presents evidence of the negative physical impacts of the tourism activity on the whale sharks in Oslob. I have seen myself the wounds on these endangered and enigmatic animals; injuries which highlight the need for an urgent change in Oslob.” – Lead author Luke Penketh

Management solutions to reduce the physical impact of tourism on whale sharks

The high incidence of injuries in the whale sharks provisioned in Oslob is a national concern and there is an urgent need to improve management practices to protect this endangered species. The whale shark is protected by Republic Art No. 9147 ‘Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.’ whereby it is illegal to maltreat and/or inflict injuries on threatened wildlife, and this is further reinforced by the DOT-DA-DILG-DENR Joint Memorandum Circular no.01 series of 2020 (Sect. 8) where it prohibits acts in dedicated interactions sites that would hinder an animals’ health, including injury and distress.  The Philippines is a signatory country to the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), where the signatories agree and recommend the strict regulation, monitoring and enforcement of the whale shark tourism interaction activities to ensure its sustainable management and conservation value as highlighted in the Concerted Action for the Whale Shark (UNEP/CMS/Concerted Action 12.7, 2017).

The results highlighted in this study, when paired with the existing knowledge on the migratory nature of this species and connectivity between the archipelago, where individual whale sharks identified in Oslob have been re-sighted in Donsol (Sorsogon Region V) Sogod bay (Southern Leyte Region VIII), Tubbataba Reef Natural Park (Palawan Region VIa), Misamis Oriental (Region 10) and nationally connected further abroad to Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan, call the National  Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture –  in collaboration with the Department of Interior and Local Government to urgently intervene to ensure the sustainable management the tourism activities in the municipality of Oslob, as well as in other Regions, to ensure the long term balance between the socio-economic benefit of the local communities, the conservation of the marine environment and preservation of endangered protected species like the whale sharks.

For more information about the work of LAMAVE visit the website by clicking here.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Brendon Sing, Director of Shark Guardian (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Brendon Sing, Director of Shark Guardian, a UK Charity working for shark and marine conservation worldwide.

Brendon Sing is from South Africa and has been diving and researching sharks for over 25 years. Whilst achieving the highest qualifications in the scuba diving industry, he has been leading participants on shark diving expeditions from Africa to Asia with a strong focus on conservation, education and research. Together with his wife Liz, Brendon created Shark Guardian as a UK Charity in 2013. His goal is to inspire everyone worldwide to protect sharks – our ocean guardians. Shark Guardian has four main operational arms including (1) Conservation activities and campaigns, (2) educational programs and developing materials, (3) Research through citizen science and (4) shark diving expeditions.

Find out more at

Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Australia plans to create world’s next two big marine parks



The Australian Government has announced plans to establish two new marine parks around Australia’s spectacular Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands!

These will be the world’s next big marine parks, providing crucial protection to globally significant marine life in an area twice the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are uniquely Australian and globally significant – there’s nowhere like them on Earth.

Most famous for its annual red crab migration, Christmas Island is one of David Attenborough’s 10 natural wonders of the world. Its thriving rainforests, deserted beaches and fringing reef provide a haven for unique and rare seabirds, land crabs and marine life.

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are Australia’s best-kept secret – our unspoiled tropical island paradise! Sitting at the top of an ancient sea mountain encircling a beautiful tropical lagoon, their azure waters are home to an incredible array of diverse marine life including tropical fish, corals, turtles, manta rays and dolphins.

Located thousands of kilometres north-west from Perth, in the vast Indian Ocean, there are few comparable unspoiled tropical island environments left in the world.

Creating world-class marine parks will provide crucial protection for a wealth of marine life, make a significant global contribution to the health of our oceans, and bring much-needed benefits to the people of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

It’s essential that the government embraces and respects the aspirations of the island communities, working collaboratively with them to co-design these marine parks. Healthy oceans and sustainable fishing are central to the local communities’ way of life, their culture and their livelihoods.

Help Save Our Marine Life Australia grow the movement to support these new marine parks for Christmas and Cocos – Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories – by spreading the word on Facebook.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email

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