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.
“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.
BLUE EARTH – Future Frogmen Podcast Series – Deep-Sea Stories From a Shadow Diver: a conversation with Richie Kohler
A series of conservation educational podcasts from Future Frogmen, introduced by Jeff Goodman.
Deep Sea Stories From a Shadow Diver: a conversation with Richie Kohler.
This episode of the Blue Earth Podcast is a conversation with Richie Kohler. He’s an explorer, technical wreck diver, shipwreck historian, filmmaker, and author.
Richie was featured in Robert Kurson’s incredible book “Shadow Divers ”. It’s a thrilling true story about Richie and John Chatterton’s quest to identify the wreck of an unknown WWII German U-boat (submarine), 65 miles off the coast of New Jersey. They dedicated six years of their lives attempting to identify the wreck.
Richie has travelled the world and explored many deep wrecks, including the Andrea Doria, Titanic, and Britannic. He’s the author of “Mystery of The Last Olympian” about the Britannic.
Richard E Hyman Bio
Richard is the Chairman and President of Future Frogmen.
Born from mentoring and love of the ocean, Richard is developing an impactful non-profit organization. His memoir, FROGMEN, details expeditions aboard Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s famed ship Calypso.
Future Frogmen, Inc. is a nonprofit organization and public charity that works to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature. They foster ocean ambassadors and future leaders to protect the ocean by accomplishing five objectives.
You can find more episodes and information at www.futurefrogmen.org and on most social platforms @futurefrogmen.
New Fisheries Act misses the mark on sustainability, but what now?
The UK’s landmark post-Brexit fisheries legislation has now become law. The Fisheries Act, the first legislation of its kind in nearly 40 years, will shape how the UK’s seas are fished for years to come.
The Marine Conservation Society, which campaigned for amendments to the legislation throughout its development, is disappointed by the removal of key sustainability amendments and by the removal of a commitment to rolling out Remote Electronic Monitoring.
The charity has committed to pushing the UK Government to go further than the framework which the Fisheries Act sets out, with greater ambition for the state of UK seas.
Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society said: “UK Government and devolved administrations must act urgently to deliver climate and nature smart fisheries under the new Fisheries Act. This is a key condition if our seas are to recover to good health. The UK Government removed key amendments from the legislation while making promises on sustainability and the introduction of remote electronic monitoring. We will continue to hold the government to account over these promises.”
“I’m pleased to see the recognition of the important role fisheries play in our fight against the climate emergency. However, even with a climate change objective in the Act, actions speak louder than words. We must get to work delivering sustainable fisheries management, which will have a huge benefit to our seas, wildlife and the communities which depend upon them.”
The Fisheries Act has become law against a backdrop of the ocean’s declining health. UK waters are currently failing to meet 11 out of 15 indicators of good ocean health and over a third of fish in UK waters are being caught at levels which cannot continue into the future. Whilst the legislation failed to address some of the more pressing issues facing UK seas, including overfishing, there is still an opportunity to affect change in the years which follow.
Sam Stone, Head of Fisheries at the Marine Conservation Society said: “The Fisheries Act marks the start of a new era of fisheries management in the UK, but the next two years will be critical in defining what this looks like. The new Act has some good objectives, but we now need to come together to make sure it really delivers the on-water change that is desperately needed for ocean recovery.
“There is genuine opportunity to create fisheries that deliver for coastal communities and for the environment, but it means moving away from ‘business-as-usual’. The UK and devolved governments now have the powers to move forward with progressive new management in their waters. That means proper incentives for low impact fishing, proper monitoring of catches and proper commitments to sustainable fishing.
“In the short term, the four nations must work together to make impactful changes, starting by addressing the UK’s most at risk fish stocks. Recovery plans are needed for our depleted stocks, including new catch limits, selectivity and avoidance measures, protection of vital habitats and fully documented catches. Rolling out Remote Electronic Monitoring with cameras on larger vessels throughout the UK should be top of the agenda if future policy is to be as well informed as possible.”
For more information about the Fisheries Bill and the Marine Conservation Society’s work, visit the charity’s website.
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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.More Less
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