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WWF-Philippines' Statement on Oslob Whale Shark Interactions

 

Oslob in the Philippine province of Cebu is among the Philippines’ most popular places to see and interact with whale sharks. However, the whale sharks of Oslob are baited with shrimp.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) believes people should respect the nature of whale sharks, being highly migratory animals which should not be trained to stay in one place. By feeding them, people are modifying their natural behavior which might severely affect the way they live and reproduce.

The act of feeding them daily has been shown to result in longer residency times at the site than are normally found for whale sharks in other parts of the world, and some individuals are found there almost every day now. This completely alters their natural behavior as they are highly migratory species. Having them stay put could have negative long-term effects on their life cycle, such as their ability to reproduce.

The food they are baited with – in this case, small shrimp – are unlikely to supply their complete nutritional requirements. It is best that we respect what we know about them. First and foremost – by allowing them to tread their course as migratory animals.

Whale sharks should not be conditioned to stay in one place year round, intentionally or otherwise.  This means we must stop the feeding, or at least modify it so that individual whale sharks are less dependent on the food provided, and that their natural behavior is less altered. Whether their food is tons of plankton or tons of shrimp is not the primary issue.

Instead of swimming with whale sharks in Oslob, WWF asks sea-lovers to swim with wild whale sharks in the town of Donsol in Sorsogon instead. By conserving whale sharks and promoting wild shark interactions, Donsol has risen from a 5th class municipality to 1st class in terms of the income of its local residents.

While feeding whale sharks remains a major issue, it cannot be denied that Oslob has become an example of community-developed tourism which has greatly benefited a local community. The decision to stop the potentially-detrimental feeding of the whale sharks lies in the hands of the locals. In any case, WWF stands ready to dive in and help steer Oslob’s whale shark program onto the path of sustainability.

 

For more information, please contact:

Communications & Media Manager Mr. Dan Ramirez (dramirez@wwf.org.ph)

Donsol Project Manager Mr. Raul Burce (rburce@wwf.org.ph)