In 2013, LAMAVE established a research site in Pintuyan after receiving reports of a large aggregation of whale sharks in the southernmost tip of Panaon Island, Southern Leyte. In only six months, LAMAVE identified 92 individual whale sharks, suggesting that this region may be home to one of the largest aggregations of whale sharks in South East Asia. This presents an incredible opportunity to study whale shark behavior, collect tissue and parasite samples, and deploy tags.
Working with the local community, LAMAVE’s research is aimed at understanding the seasonal patterns and feeding ecology of whale sharks visiting Panaon Island, and assessing potential impact of the growing tourism. Our objective is to help local and provincial governments establish sustainable whale shark interaction guidelines in this region, with the long-term aim of establishing Sogod Bay as a protected area. By working closely with the community of Barangay Son-Ok who have operated whale shark tourism since 2006, LAMAVE is able to conduct capacity building, education and provide support for their development. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that the tourism in this region develops in a sustainable manner that supports the long-term conservation of the marine animals that frequent the Bay.