Scientist Against Whale Shark Feeding
Dr, Lemnuel Aragones, a marine mammal expert, recently told reporters that, in his opinion, the feeding of whale sharks at Oslob is putting them at risk. He stated that the practice feeding the whale sharks could easily be mismanaged and abused. He claimed that it is the sound of the feeders knocking on the sides of their small wooden boats that attracted the whale sharks which are feed krill from dawn to 1:00pm.
Dr Aragones, who has been a consultant for environmental lawyers, said that the practice of feeding is conditioning the animals to be being fed and this may result in a change in behaviour. For me, the important word in this statement is MAY. In other words there is not yet an empirical evidence of adverse behaviour change.
Why are Whale Sharks Attracted to Oslob?
Scientists are hypothesizing that the whale sharks are naturally attracted to Oslob due to the upwelling in the area which brings nutrients from the bottom of the sea to the surface.
It was also reported that the president of Physalus – Dr. Alessandro Ponzo – that a study has been conducted in the area and presented to Oslob Mayor Ronald Guaren. The study was on the compliance with the Whale Shark Watching Ordinance and scientific data on the presence and behaviour of the whale sharks in Oslob. The Mayor stated that he has still to study this report.
Moves to Stop Whale Shark Feeding
Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (“PAWB”) Director – Theresa Lim - sent the regional environment office a directive to start working on stopping the feeding of whale sharks in Oslob as this was against the protocol on whale shark watching.
The Next Steps
Gwen Garcia - the Cebu Provincial Governor – reacted to these moves directed three agencies and the local government of Oslob to monitor within three months whether the feeding of whale sharks affects their behaviour. Gwen asked the meeting “Why do more whale sharks appear in Tan-awan?” She then instructed BFAR to monitor the waters and find out the reason behind this, so they can come up with a procedure on how to deal with the marine creatures.
The governor, though, believes there are many whale sharks in the area because of their basic survival instinct, as they feel protected in Barangay Tan-awan, Oslob. “First of all, I believe it’s the survival instinct of the whale sharks. They feel that they are now in a safe and secure environment. Second, the whale sharks’ food is there,” Garcia said. Garcia said even Dr. Al Orolfo, Protected Area, Wildlife Conservation Zone and Management Services (PAWCZMS) Central Visayas technical director, also believes that the feeding of whale sharks should not be stopped immediately since there is no empirical data that would prove that the behavioural pattern of the whale sharks has changed. Oslob Mayor Guaren said he does not subscribe to the thought that the whale sharks behaviour was altered.
Do Not Delay your Visit to Tan-awan, Oslob
Clearly there is mounting pressure from some organizations to put a stop to the whale shark feeding at Oslob. This activity is important for the economy of Oslob and for tourism; however, if the scientists can prove that the feeding practice is detrimental to the wellbeing of the whale sharks, we can anticipate that it may well be stopped in the future. Thus if you really want to experience seeing, snorkelling or diving with these magnificent animals, you had better plan your visit soon.