Dear CMAS colleagues,
I`ve got an email from my colleague Rudy a member of “Green Fins”, the diving division of the UNEP, United Nations Environmental Project. They told me about the fast spreading practice of feeding whale sharks, (Cenderawashi-Indonesia and now Olslob, Cebu Island-Philippines) and the associated problems to create such a “tourist attraction” Feeding changes the character of the animals. Injuries to humans, the environment and to the sharks are most likely to follow.
Attached you find an article about two sharks heavily injured, one with a spear in his body from a spear gun, one injured on the jaw by a the propeller of a dive shop boat. This article was posted by Cebu Daily News just a few days after Oslob started implementing “rules and regulations”. However, he asked for help to provide information to the divers around the world.
However, in a first step it is useful to work on rules, regulations and monitoring instead of provoking the authorities to “limit the damage”. We, the German Underwater Federation (VDST e.V.) support the statement of the “Green Fins”: Diving yes, but with no impact on the environment. This means no anchoring, no touch…, and, of course, no feeding of animals.
The “Green Fins” and we, VDST e.V., believe that there are other ways for Oslob to help their fishermen. Marine park, sanctuaries, monitor illegal fishing… will bring more fish to the fishermen, and when the fish populations and reefs recover also divers and other tourists. From there you can generate taxes to come up with livelihood projects for the fishermen. Whale shark feeding is dead end road.
“Green Fins” is a UNEP project design to help scuba diver operators mitigate their impacts to the marine environment. This is done through the Code of Conduct, internationally recognised and endorsed by governments across SE Asia. “Green Fins” encourages all of its members to NOT feed any fish or other marine species. This is due to associated negative impacts including the following:
• change in species behaviour / interaction
• increase in nutrient loading
• lowering of species inhibitions towards humans, increasing their chances of being hunted
• introductions of bacteria
• introduction of unnatural food sources and chemicals e.g. food colourings, flavourings and chemical enhancers
• disruption of natural feeding cycles
Combined this can lead to local algal over-growths smothering nearby corals and has also be linked to outbreaks in Crown of Thorns. It also has associated safety implications for both humans and marine species. An example of this is shark feeding. “Green Fins” believes that fish feeding has no positive effects for any marine species and usually only benefits tour operators financially in the short term. To find more information please visit www.greenfins.net
Please, provide this information to your national divers to protect the whale sharks in Oslob, in order to come across a whale shark and secure their future in the wild.
Best wishes from Germany, Ralph