Whale Shark Tourism sparks concern
A small rural village in the Southern Philippines has become the center of a global controversy over the growth in tourists visiting the area to view the world’s biggest fish, known as the Whale Shark.
Marine biologists are concerned about the practice of locals from the village of Tan-awan feeding the docile Whale Shark by hand so they can be viewed by paying tourists; local fisherman have now become full time shark spotters and tour guides to make more money than they do fishing.
Despite the practice of feeding the fish a small shrimp known as uyap local people claim the Whale Shark has been visiting the area for decades before the tourism industry grew in the area. Groups of between eight and 20 of the huge animals gather at each feeding from 6 am to 1 pm each day; scientists fear the plankton eating fish will become aggressive as they fight for the uyap provided by local people.
Other issues include the passing of disease between the animals as they do not usually gather in groups as large as those found off the coast of Tan-awan.
“Some people are asking that we stop feeding, but if we stop feeding, what is our livelihood?” said Ramonito Lagahid, vice chairman of the Tan-awan Oslob Sea Warden and Fishermen Association (TOSWFA). “We have to go back to fishing.”