As tourists feed the whale sharks

Tan-Avan on the southern Philippine island of Cebu, once a sleepy village, had never seen tourists, unless they are lost or riding transit. Now, however, they come to hundreds - to swim with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. Whale sharks are lured to the coast Tan Avan near Oslob fishermen who manually feed them small shrimps, attracting divers and snorkellers who want to see the sea giants.

As tourists feed the whale sharks As tourists feed the whale sharks As tourists feed the whale sharks

But this practice has caused heated debate on the Internet and among biologists who condemned it as unnatural. "Some people say we lure them to stop, but if we do not feed them, how do we take a livelihood?" Said Ramonito Lagahid, deputy chairman of the Association of Fishermen Tan Avan Oslob (TOSWFA). "We will be forced to go back to fishing."

As tourists feed the whale sharks

Although whale sharks reach a length of 12, 7 meters and weight of more than 21, 5 tons, it was confirmed that they feed mainly on algae, plankton and krill. Contrary to its name, the animals docile and present no danger to humans. A large part of their life cycle is unknown to science, including the total population. Some of them die in the fields, where they tend to congregate, and the species as a whole is considered to be "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

As tourists feed the whale sharks

But Lagahid said that Tan Avan always been whale sharks. He remembers that he had seen them, even when I was young. "They are always there when we go out at night to gather 'uyap', - he said, referring to a special kind of small shrimp, which feed on whale sharks. "Many times we were forced to stop fishing because gathered around whale sharks."

As tourists feed the whale sharks

Tales of the whale sharks have spread globally about two years ago through the Internet message from witnesses and tourists flocked to the village in the Philippines and around the world. several hundred can be seen throughout most of the day, but in 2012 this number reached a peak in 1642 a person on Good Friday in 2012.

As tourists feed the whale sharks

"The area of ​​interaction" with the whale sharks the size of a football field, located about 80 meters from the beach, and the feeding takes place from 6:00 am to 1:00 pm. On average, there is 8-10 whale sharks, but sometimes in the morning there are more than 20.

As tourists feed the whale sharks

The tariffs for foreign tourists are in the range from 500 pesos (£ 8, 30) for the simple observation of whale sharks, and up to 1,500 pesos - plus the usual fee for diving - for the pleasure of diving with them. Money is collected, and each villager who works on that day as a guide or boatman gets between 1,000 and 1,500 pesos - good pay for the villagers in the Philippines.

As tourists feed the whale sharks

The results are obvious. A lot of new brick houses lined up on a short stretch of road leading to the site of feeding on the beach. "It's easier to work in the field of whale sharks, I can earn a lot of money," says 23-year-old Aiki Lagahid nephew Ramonito and fisherman who now works supervisor whale sharks and the boatman. "In the morning we otvozim guests, and in the afternoon, play basketball."

As tourists feed the whale sharks

Tourists also delighted.

As tourists feed the whale sharks

But not all happy. Biologists, in particular, fear that feeding will create long-term problems. According to the Environmental Monitoring Group Fizalus environment in Italy, it is very rare when so many whale sharks going on such a small area on a regular basis. Feeding off the boat in close to the people is also extremely unnatural.

As tourists feed the whale sharks

"It's like a zoo, circus, watch the animals, which move up and down and feed. The behavior that you see unnatural "- says Alessandro Ponzio, president Fizalus. "The experience that you get ... it's not the same as those situations where you see them in the wild, in their natural environment. What you will find here is the use of wild life tourist attraction. "

As tourists feed the whale sharks

Biologists fear that the situation may lead to the fact that whale sharks begin to develop abnormal social behavior, such as increased aggression or competition between the animals. The close contact can also lead to the spread of diseases and parasites.

As tourists feed the whale sharks

animal rights group says that they understand the importance of tourism as a source of livelihood, but stresses that this should be organized in a sustainable way, to become a long-term opportunity. Fizalus assesses tourism and feeding influence on the behavior of whale sharks and hopes that their research will help Local Government to manage tourism with whale sharks and to minimize the impact on the environment.

As tourists feed the whale sharks

pack a small shrimp that are used by fishermen to feed the whale sharks, are loaded on the boat for feeding on the beach in Tan-Avan.

As tourists feed the whale sharks

The whale shark approaching boat for feeding at the beach Tan Awan.

The fishermen pull their boats on the beach at Tan-Avan.