By Angel Alcala
WHALE sharks, the largest plankton-feeding fish in the worldmeasuring up to 13.7 meters in length, are now recognized for their potentials in tourism.
Since December 2011, several individuals of this fish species have returned to the coastal waters off the town of Oslob, southern Cebu, and have similarly attracted many tourists, who pay considerable sums of money for the experience of viewing these fish. Reports say that some fishermen of Oslob have been caring for these fish by feeding them with zooplankton, the food of whale sharks, and some say that this is the reason that these animals are staying at the sites.
It may be noted that whale sharks were observed by us in the Oslob marine area in the vicinity of Sumilon Island, where plankton is abundant, as far back as the early 1970s, and it is not surprising to find them returning to these sites. Also, Oslob is not too far from the island of Pamilacan and the town of Talisayan, off Misamis Oriental, all in the Bohol Sea, where whale shark fishery has existed for a long time.
Using whale sharks as a tourist attraction, and thus a source of income for coastal communities, is much better than killing them for food.
In fact, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources prohibits the killing of whale sharks. It is known from a review of M. Alava, formerly of Silliman University, that in some fishery sites, there was an increasing trend in the catch landings of whale sharks in the late 1990s. This trend could result in the extirpation of whale shark populations in certain areas because of the fact that this species is slow-growing, long-lived, and takes a long time (many years) to become sexually mature and to replace a generation.
To return to the Oslob case, let me remind the Oslob people that the whale shark is a migratory species. It is expected that they will leave the Oslob waters for some reasons in the future to fulfill some aspects of their life cycle, such as reproduction.
In the meantime, the animals stay close to humans because of the feeding. Unfortunately, this conditioning could become the reason for their death in the hands of people who would prefer to use them as food. It is known that there are many such people in the country.
It is therefore suggested that the effects of feeding on the behavior and ecology of whale sharks be evaluated by authorities.
- Stop feeding whale sharks in Oslob (sorsogoncity.wordpress.com)
- Massive mangrove project to bring fireflies to Donsol (sorsogoncity.wordpress.com)
- Whale sharks feeding from the hands of fishermen in the Philippines (telegraph.co.uk)
- Feeding Whale Sharks: Much Ado About Butanding (bonvito.wordpress.com)