Environment department ordered: Stop feeding of whale sharks

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012


CEBU CITY – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas has been instructed to start work on ending the practice of feeding whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu.

DENR-Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim gave the directive in a letter to the DENR regional executive director.

It was made in response to an email of whale shark researcher Elson Q. Aca addressed to DENR Secretary Ramon Paje “regarding the practice of feeding whale sharks by tourists and scuba divers in Oslob, Cebu.”

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“Since this practice is against protocol on whale shark watching, we suggest that your Office collaborate further with the local government in Oslob to pursue necessary actions to eventually stop the practice of feeding whale sharks in the area,” said Lim.

Lim assured Aca in a separate letter that the environment agency is coordinating with concerned agencies such as the Department of Agriculture–Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Oslob Municipal Government.

She said the objective of the dialogue is to disallow feeding of whale sharks and to practice low-impact and environmentally friendly wildlife ecotourism practices.

DENR information officer Dr. Eddie Llamedo said the agency has not received a copy of Lim’s instruction. He said the regional office will coordinate with the concerned agencies and the municipality of Oslob.

Oslob Mayor Ronald Guaren refused to issue a comment as he has not received a copy of the letter.

Oslob town has gained popularity as a tourist attraction with local fishermen feeding the whale sharks krill or tiny shrimp-like crustaceans to lure them to the surface.

Whale sharks are migratory, found in warm waters and feed mostly on plankton. The whale sharks have spots on their back and sides, which could serve as their thumbprint.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists whale sharks as a “vulnerable” species due to the practice of hunting and its dwindling population.

Marine Biological Society member Joey Gatus earlier said feeding the sharks is not a good practice. Among other reasons, feeding aggregates them unnaturally and may cause detrimental changes in their behavior; also, the feeds are exposed to potential contamination that could endanger the health of the animal.

Aca has also gained the support of BFAR director Lawyer Asis G. Perez, who said the agency frowns on the practice of feeding whale sharks as part of any ecotourism project and has not issued any permit to any person or entity for this purpose.

“We also would like to inform you that we are in the process of amending Fisheries Administrative Order No. 193 on the protection of whale sharks, by including feeding as among the prohibited acts,” said Perez. (BAP of Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 29, 2012.

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