We all love those great photographs of divers swimming with Whale Sharks. Todays article in the Washington Post makes an important point about the ethics and sustainability of the growing market for watching marine mega-fauna.
Whale sharks, a threatened species that can grow as big as a bus, have become so wildly popular with tourists that scientists, environmentalists and even eco-tourism operators are calling for new limits on human contact. “Suddenly everyone has this on their bucket list,” said Brent Stewart, a scientist at San Diego’s Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, who has studied whale sharks in half a dozen countries. “People are willing to pay money for this kind of eco-tourism, and now you see these unintended consequences. We have seen a frenzy in all these areas.”
This is the same scenario we work with whale-watching which is important for raising awareness but has its downside with ship strikes, boat movements and noise that have a negative impact on the cetaceans daily lives. Guidelines have been developed by the International Whaling Commision, cetacean conservation organisations and national governments, to ensure human intrusion is not detrimental.
WhaleFest's co-founder Dylan Walker, of www.PlanetWhale.com gives his top t ips on how to choose your whale or dolphin watching trip. The quality of whale watching trips around the world is incredibly variable, but if you are armed with some basic information, it is possible to tell the best from the rest and choose the perfect whale or dolphin watching experience for you!
Planet Whale is the world's largest online search engine for whale and dolphin watching trips. Working in partnership with whale watch operators, conservation organisations and the general public, and is working towards a more sustainable approach to whale watching capable of inspiring millions of people worldwide.
We hope similar initiatives will be adopted for shark watching operations and all divers will support programmes for watching whale sharks, whales and dolphins or when operating from dive boats operating in the vacinity of them. Spread the word !