STUDYING THE IMPACTS OF PROVISIONING ON WHALE SHARKS IN OSLOB, CEBU

The whale shark project in Oslob, Cebu involves researching the resident population of whale sharks, monitoring the impacts of provisioning on the animals, and studying the socioeconomic implications of this tourism industry. This is LAMAVE’s longest and largest running project.  

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Oslob 

The quiet seaside town of Oslob gained international publicity after the local government approved the feeding of whale sharks in the fishing Barangay of Tan-Awan in 2012.  What began as a small tourist operation, has skyrocketed into a booming industry that continues to grow, mostly unregulated. While the activities in Oslob have resulted in a large boost to the local economy, they raise ongoing conservation and sustainability concerns.  

Learning from a provisioning site

LAMAVE identified this region as an important source of insight into the long-term ecological and behavioral effects of tourism on these animals, and also on the socio-economic impacts on the local community. In 2012, we set up a research base and began monitoring whale sharks in Oslob through daily photo identification and behavioral surveys.  We also deployed multiple temperature-depth-recorder tags on local whale sharks to understand their local habitat use and diving behaviour.

In 2014, the teams' first scientific paper was published describing the Population structure and residency patterns of whale sharks visiting Oslob. Another scientific paper followed in 2015 outlining the findings of a three year study investigating whale shark behaviour and tourist compliance to the local code of conduct. The study highlighted that some local guidelines were being broken 97% of the time, highlighting an urgent need for improvement in the management of the tourism practice. LAMAVE continues to work with the Local Government Unit. 

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Extended residency and differences in lagged identification rates suggest behavioural modification on provisioned individuals, underlying the necessity for proper management of this tourism activity.
— Reference: Araujo et al., 2014

Read more about how this project contributes to our nation wide whale shark research here