Rationalize the whale shark tourism in the Philippines for a better protection and a sustainable activity for local communities

LAMAVE (Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute), Cebu Island (Philippines)

Responsibilities


Distinctions

  • LAMAVE (Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines)

Biography

Supervisors

LAMAVE (Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines)

 

Context

The small town of Oslob, on Cebu Island, became one of the top touristic attraction in the Philippines a few years ago, when the local government legalized the feeding of whale sharks in order to attract tourists. This action has been a great commercial success, and now an impressive number of tourists are visiting Oslob every year. This lucrative activity is still growing without any regulation or concern for the whale sharks and their environment.

Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the research and conservation of marine megafauna and the marine environment in the Philippines. LAMAVE focuses its efforts on charismatic marine megafauna, using it as an umbrella species to protect the wider marine environment. They identify hotspots and quantify populations of species including whale sharks, turtles and other animals. They use technology, such as satellite and acoustic tags to help determine key habitat sites, home ranges and migratory corridors of marine species. The results are shared with governments and stakeholders, to work together to minimise impacts and develop tools for conservation management such as creating or zoning marine protected areas or advising policy. LAMAVE works with researchers from different universities in Asia and Australia (the University of Hong Kong, James Cook University, Victoria University, etc), various NGOs (like the WWF, the Rufford Foundation, …), the departments of Toursim and Natural Resources of the Phillipines Government, and many different local actors. Through their various projects, LAMAVE and its partners work on the conservation of the marine environment, but also on the development of sustainable economic activities in order to empower the local communities and ensure that they will be protecting their environment on the long term. 

 

Objectives

The immersion project mission will be

1/ to collect data on the field: photo identifying the sharks, counting them, counting the number of tourists approaching the sharks, and then analyze these data in order to track the whale sharks population in the Philippines, compare the actual situation with estimations dating back to the time when shark feeding was forbidden.

2/ to study the impact of feeding the whale sharks, to identify what kind of regulations need to be taken in order to protect the whale sharks and to provide a sustainable touristic activity for the local communities in this remote region of the Philippines.

 

Universite Cote d'Azur