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‘Don’t domesticate Oslob whale sharks’

/ 08:37 AM January 11, 2012

Even with a municipal ordinance in place, a veterinarian and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said more needs to be done to ensure the well-being of whale sharks in Oslob town, southern Cebu.

Dr. Jo Marie Acebes, a biologist and a doctor of veterinary medicine who worked with World Wildlife Fund-Philippines for four years, said the whale shark watching activities that have stepped up since August that have stepped up since August appear to be getting out of hand.

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In an e-mail to Cebu Daily News, Acebes said tourists forget that the whale sharks are “wild animals” whose natural hunting and feeding pattern should not be disrupted by feeding them.

“Anything we do, no matter how careful we think we are, as long as it’s not natural, it can potentially disrupt their behavior.  The consequences may not be immediately visible to humans but they can occur in months or years,” she said.

Acebes and  BFAR-7 Regional Director Andres Boholst said the tourists should stop feeding the whale sharks baby shrimps.

Acebes said this doesn’t mean that the fisherfolk cannot earn as guides for tourists wishing to see the marine creatures.

“The local government can imitate what has been done in Donsol, Sorsogon province. The whale sharks there are not being fed but they still come. Locals earn from simply allowing tourists to see and swim alongside the animals,” Acebes said.

What can be done in Donsol town, Sorsogon province, can also be done in Oslob town, the biologist said.

Boholst said whale sharks have their own feeding instincts and the food offered to them by tourists or guides may be contaminated.

“What they’re doing is wrong because they are pampering the whale sharks,” Boholst told Cebu Daily News.

He said he heard about the presence and close interaction of the whale sharks with Oslob fishermen only last week.

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Boholst said the bureau will study whatever negative effects the whale shark watching activity may pose on the whale sharks.

He said the whale sharks are naturally migratory species that should be left in the wild.

Since the whale sharks are fed within the municipal waters prescribed to be at least 15 kilometers from the coastal area, Boholst said the Oslob municipal government is responsible for caring for the creatures.

He said the BFAR will provide intervention programs and enforce the rules in protecting the marine species, as prescribed by RA 9147 or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.”

They will visit the area sometime this week and meet with Oslob Mayor Ronald Guaren to air their concerns on the whale shark watching activities in the town.

“The protection of the whale sharks should be prioritized. There would be no conflict with economic activities and the protection of the species if mechanisms are in place,” he said.

Two whale sharks that were spotted frequenting the coastal waters off barangay Tan-awan in Oslob town sustained injuries in separate occasions last week.

“Berto” was speared on the back while “Lucas” was wounded in the head by a propeller of a motor banca.

The Oslob municipal government passed an ordinance that ensures the protection of whale sharks. The Capitol spearheaded the creation of a technical working group (TWG) that would draft the guidelines on whale shark watching in the town. Reporter Candeze R. Mongaya and Correspondent Carmel Loise Matus

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TAGS: Animals, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), protection of whale sharks, whale sharks
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