Asian Dive Expo (ADEX) 2013 - All about whale sharks
Last weekend, I crossed a major event off my bucket list. Speaking at ADEX.
Every year of my adult life that I spent in Singapore, I went to ADEX. It’s a big space, full of diving goodies, underwater photos and brilliant people. I would go with dive buddies/best friends to network, get stickers to decorate my laptop and anything else, and just generally revel in the world of people who love being underwater.
I have genuinely missed it the last couple of years. But not 2013. With the theme of whale sharks, it was a perfect platform for the NGO I worked for last year to talk about whale shark research. Myself, the President of the NGO and bonafide big brother Dr. Alessandro Ponzo, and my favourite conservation photographer Steve De Neef were invited to give talks and participate in ‘The Big Blue Buzz’ - a “debate” about animals on display.
The “debate” wasn’t really that, two teams, that were actually far from opposite. We are all working towards the same goals, but represent a gradient of how to do it. At least the subjects of animals on display like captive dolphins, and the whale sharks being fed in Oslob were talked about, and I hope that we made a few people think about their decision, and research into what they are actually supporting and making an educated decision. Still, there were some strong personalities in the debate, and I wish we’d had time to say a bit more.
In fact, that’s pretty much the over-arching theme of my presentation - “Whale Sharks and Tourism - Finding the Balance”. Who doesn’t want to swim with a whale shark? However, we have to recognize that by being in the water we are affecting them. The whale shark code of conduct has been developed so you don’t scare them off, but studies show certain actions of ours cause them to exhibit avoidance behaviours (Quiros 2007). When we talk about tourism, we need to remember the multiplier effect. One shark cutting an interaction short might not seem like a lot. But what if it’s several times a day, every day. If they are there to feed at the surface, what’s the effect of driving them away? If they avoid certain areas because of tourists, what’s the effect on migration patterns. And this is all without feeding them.
I also touched on the issue of the controversial feeding practices in Oslob, Cebu. But that is a whole other post, for another time.
I hope that at least one person walked away thinking that they should do their own research before booking a holiday. To educate themselves, and make informed choices. I want people to start taking responsibility for their tourism, and not to assume that any and all wildlife tourism or nature tourism is “ecotourism”. It has a strict definition, and if you really want to support ecotourism, you need to do your research.
Passionate issues aside, I met up with old friends and mentors, met so many new and amazing people and long-time heros of mine. I manage to eat some of the amazing Singaporean food I have missed, and escape the heat of Philippine summer which might be the end of me. It was one of my best weekends ever.
Yesterday’s interview with Reuters Singapore about LAMAVE’s work in the controversial whale shark tourism in Oslob, Cebu.
Whale sharks are fed frozen shrimp daily to keep in shallow waters for tourist interaction. No doubt the industry has increased the income of the area, but more research is needed to determine the full effects of feeding on highly migratory animals and encouraging a positive association with boats (propellors or not) and people.
This is my latest article on environmentally responsible scuba diving and the Green Fins work I’m involved in!
We scuba divers are by no means the greatest threat to coral reefs, but we do cause damage, and it can add up. However, we are also the most passionate ambassadors for the reef. Let’s make choices that reflect the respect we have for the ocean.
Peace. Love. Marine Biology.
The fruit of a cyberspacing for some business card inspiration.
- Waves on the shore.
- Hammers downstairs. Like every morning.
- Cats playing in the roof of my room. Yes in it. Lots of them.
- Kids playing on the beach.
- Cockerels (I can’t emphasise this enough).
- Someone sweeping.
- Someone clearing their nose!
- Pots and pans being washed.
- At least two radios. One of which is playing ‘Ganggam style’. Again.
- Kittens meowing.
I was lucky enough to work closely with the very talented Steve De Neef during my work with the whale sharks of Oslob last year. Steve is one of my favourite conservation documenters - he spends time getting to know the conservation issue at hand, speaking to all the stakeholders involved getting information from all sides, and then producing high quality articles and documentaries helping to spread awareness and inspiration.
This is a reel of some of the projects he was involved with last year and a short snippet of an interview with me.
Yesterday we shared some of our favorite mammal, fish and plant spottings of 2012. Today we are featuring birds, amphibians and “others”: those organisms that do not fit neatly into the remaining categories.
Check out the full post above for my shot of a mimic octopus which made it into Project Noah’s Best of 2012 ‘others’ category!
Apologies for the lack of posts…my team of Green Fins coordinators and I have landed in Malapascua Island, Philippines to launch the Green Fins project with dive centers. It’s hot, sweaty, hectic, and good internet is sparse.
However the work is fun and rewarding and we get fantastic sunrises, sunsets and of course a few sightings of the spectacular Thresher sharks :)
“When I grow up, I want to be a marine biologist”… every parent’s nightmare! But that is what my whole class was saying after we came back from a marine biology fieldtrip, but unlike the others, I never deviated from the plan. Five years after graduating from a Masters in Applied Marine…
Honoured to be a featured Ranger on Project Noah’s blog.