Since 2011, fishers in Oslob have taken more than 750,000 tourists to see whale sharks up close. Tourists say it’s thrilling! A once-in-a-lifetime experience. The fishers claim that this industry helps them better take care of their families. The sharks show up because the fishers feed them every day. Many people think this adventure is harmless for the sharks. And it helps local people. Others think that feeding the sharks changes their natural behaviors. They think it may hurt their well‑being. Who is right? That’s a tough one. There are two sides to this story.

This is a view of the Sumilon Island beach landing near Oslob.

A guide feeds a whale shark.

For Whale Shark Tourism

Improving Lives

Before whale shark tourism, local people earned about $1.40 a day by fishing. It wasn’t enough to put food on the table or send their children to school. Then a tourist offered to pay a fisher to see a whale shark up close.

Soon, the fishers joined together. They created a dive company that attracted more visitors. Their business earned more than $18 million in five years. Now, locals say they have money to provide for their families.

The business gives much of its profits to help surrounding towns. Resorts and hotels have popped up. And many people sell food and souvenirs to tourists.

The guides say that feeding whale sharks is good for all fish. Fewer people need to fish to make a living. Whale sharks are less likely to be killed for their fins to make shark fin soup. Tourism also raises awareness that whale sharks are endangered.

Signs point the way to whale shark watching.

Tourists swim with a whale shark.