OFFICIALS of government agencies, local government units and nature conservation groups recommended yesterday a ban on feeding of sharks.
The feeding ban was among the recommendations during the first Philippine Shark Summit, held in Cebu City. The summit was organized by Greenpeace in cooperation with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Cebu Capitol and other conservation groups.
Feeding affects the behavior, health and reproduction of sharks, said AA Yaptinchay, director of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines.
In Oslob, Cebu, a group of fisherfolk feeds whale sharks, locally known as tuki, as a tourism activity.
Yaptinchay said whale sharks are migratory species. Feeding them might prevent them from migrating, he added.
Yaptinchay said whale sharks spent most of their time 50 meters below the surface of the water. During feeding, they are forced to stay close to the surface, which affects their body temperature.
He said shark tourism standards require minimal intrusion into the habitat of the creatures. Feeding and interaction, he added, are forms of intrusion.
Oslob Mayor Ronald Guaren said the fisherfolk-shark tour guides give krill to the whale sharks so that tourists can see the creatures.
He said the feeding only happens during the whale shark tour, which is from 7 a.m. to noon.
The mayor said the municipality enacted an ordinance to regulate the activity and protect marine wildlife, especially the whale sharks. He stressed that the provisions of the ordinance are strictly implemented.
Yaptinchay said whale sharks are also present in Sogod Bay in Leyte, Palawan and Donsol, Sorsogon.
Whale shark tourism in Donsol began in 2007 and attracted 8,6005 visitors on its first year of operation. In Oslob, 98,295 tourists came to see the whale sharks on the first year of its operations in 2011.
Summit participants who tackled tourism during the workshops, noted that enforcement of laws and regulations remains weak in shark tourism activities. They also said there is a general lack of understanding of sharks and their importance to the marine ecosystem.
BFAR 7 assistant director Allan Poquita said the agency is strengthening its information drive on the need to protect sharks by reaching out to remote coastal communities.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 25 percent of 468 shark species known at present are threatened with extinction.
Rep. Joseller “Yeng” Guiao (Pampanga, first district), told the summit’s 150 participants that he is willing to file a bill related to the protection of the sharks. He said inputs for the bill has to come from people.
“Make me your errand boy in Congress,” said Guiao, also a Philippine Basketball Association coach.
Daanbantayan Vice Mayor Gilbert Arabis Jr., who participated in the summit, said the municipality plans to enact an ordinance protecting sharks, especially the thresher shark.
Conservation group Save the Philippine Seas is helping the local government draft an ordinance providing for the protection of sharks and rays.
The original article is published at Sun Star Cebu on August 14, 2014.