Philippines: DOT urges community to follow whale shark interaction guidelines
An April 12, 2012 press release from the Department of Tourism
The Department of Tourism (DOT) stresses the need to conduct awareness training on whale shark interaction and marine conservation for local government units (LGUs) and communities in parts of the Philippines where whale sharks frequent.
Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. urges the public to follow the laws and guidelines set by LGUs for whale shark interaction.
“Tourism should coexist with the protection and conservation of these marine animals. We need to heighten people’s awareness and capacitate the community to effectively manage the interaction, so that it will not cause undue harm or disturbance to the normal behavior of the sharks,” said Jimenez.
“The guidelines are there to be enforced, not only for the stakeholders to protect [their] principal natural attraction, but also to raise awareness on marine conservation issues,” he added.
The photo of a girl riding a whale shark along the shoreline of Barangay Granada, Boljoon, Cebu prompted DOT Region VII Director Rowena Montecillo to meet with Mayor Teresita Celis, who confirmed the unfortunate incident.
The local executive narrated that the whale shark was trapped in the net of local fishermen. It was brought near the shore because the fishermen had difficulty in freeing the creature while in deeper waters. Those involved in the incident were already reprimanded and warned of being penalized if caught again.
The whale shark was later released into the open sea.
“Director Montecillo also met with the local community and got their support and willingness to undergo training. The DOT is committed to assist in preparing communities to be systematic and responsible in harnessing this livelihood opportunity,” Tourism Undersecretary Maria Victoria V. Jasmin said.
“We have also dialogued with Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Director Andres Bojos, who agreed to partner with us in conducting an Awareness Caravan in May during the Month of the Ocean aimed at raising awareness on marine protection and conservation, and promoting a culture of tourism,” said Director Montecillo.
The DOT is part of the technical working group, created by Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, which is in charge of formulating guidelines and monitoring systems to ensure that this tourism opportunity remains a boon to the communities. Measures are also being undertaken to conduct further research on the migratory pattern of the whale sharks.
Source: Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines