understanding this famous WHALE SHARK aggregation
Donsol Bay is home to the Philippines' original whale shark tourism destination, which was founded in 1998 with the assistance of WWF-Philippines. Whale sharks naturally aggregate here to feed in the rich waters. In 2015, LAMAVE started working with WWF-Philippines to study this aggregation and to build a comprehensive database of individual whale sharks using photo-ID. In 2018, a new scientific study by LAMAVE and WWF-Philippines revealed that whale sharks in Donsol, Philippines are uncharacteristically larger than those found elsewhere in the Philippines. The study, which describes the population dynamics and strong site fidelity of adult whale sharks to the coastal waters of Donsol, was published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science and represents the longest dataset on whale sharks in the country.
DONSOL: THE 'WHALE SHARK CAPITAL OF THE WORLD'
The waters of Donsol, in the Southern tip of the Bicol region, have been home to whale sharks for many years, though it wasn’t until 1998 that people realised its potential for tourism after new legislation (FAO 193) was passed, protecting whale sharks across the country. Shortly after the passing of the law, WWF-Philippines worked alongside the local government, Department of Tourism and stakeholders, to set up effective and sustainable tourism practices. The area soon became known as the “Whale Shark Capitol of the World” and remains the Philippines original whale shark tourism destination.
USING PHOTO-ID TO STUDY THE LOCAL POPULATION
WWF Philippines collected extensive data on the whale sharks since 2007, and in March 2015 began a collaboration with LAMAVE in order to continue the collection of whale shark photo-ID to identify and follow population trends in Donsol.
Using this data, the team is building a comprehensive database of individual whale sharks using photo-ID. This, in combination with LAMAVEs work in Cebu, Palawan, Southern Leyte and Mindanao, is essential to developing an understanding of whale shark movement patterns in the Philippines and beyond.