Against Whale Shark Tourism

Changing Behaviors

Some scientists worry that feeding whale sharks from 6 a.m. to noon 364 days a year might be disruptive. The natural behavior of a whale shark is to travel long distances.

Whale sharks can migrate as far as 12,800 kilometers (8,000 miles) in a three-year period. In Oslob, most of the whale sharks move on after a few days. But about four percent stay year-round. Scientists don’t know why some stay and others go. Is it a pattern created by feeding the whale sharks?

Researchers worry that the sharks may start to depend upon people for food. They may become less wary of people and boats.

A tourist touches the fin of a whale shark while diving. Tourists are not supposed to touch them, but many do.

A larger problem might be that the sharks associate boats with food. Many of Oslob’s whale sharks have cuts caused by propellers. Yet, the tourist canoes only have paddles. The sharks may be drawn to boats with propellers hoping for a tasty handout. Instead, they get hurt.

Tourists are told not to wear sunblock in the water. It is a chemical toxic to wildlife. Yet, many swimmers break the rules. What does that mean for the whale sharks? Is the interaction with people a problem? No one is sure yet.

This is an aerial view of tourists in the water and in boats, interacting with whale sharks.

Whale shark tourism is controversial. Is it worth pursuing? Or not?

What do you think?