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.
Underwater model Hannah Fraser swims with a whale shark in Oslob, Philippines, for a one-of-a-kind photo-session. The stunt was the brainchild of US photographers Shawn Heinrichs and Kristian Schmidt. Picture: Shawn Heinrichs / Barcroft Media
Sure it’s not photoshopped. It’s worse. The whale sharks are being fed frozen shrimp. That’s why they are ‘posing’. It is a one-of-a-kind photo session, but what is it promoting? An unsustainable tourism practice? An unrealistic perception of whale sharks, and whale shark interactions?
I have written about the subject before… I guess what I hope to get across this time is less about the sharks and more about our perception. Let’s think about the consequences, instead of accepting it as it is. Question things, look beyond the obvious. Take action. Just because it’s printed in the papers doesn’t mean that it’s ok.
Since March, a research team from the Large Marine Vertebrates Project has been monitoring the effects of tourism and provisioning in Oslob, Cebu, where a tourist industry has sprung up surrounding the feeding of whale sharks.
I joined the team as Principal Investigator in May, and have spent the last few weeks out of the water, away from the sharks, cursing at Word’s formatting, to punch out this report.
It has been given to the local government, and respective regional agencies, and because we believe that conservation is most sustainable coming from information and education, the report has been made public.
Not many people write about the process of science in conservation, or the hardships that go into producing reports/ scientific papers etc. It’s just accepted that you have to put in the work. I think it’s nice to share, not to get praise, or attention, or “well done it’s worth the hard work”, but so those who are breaking into the industry know what it’s really like. I hope to see more transparency about the work that goes into things like this, and how people overcome the adversities they encounter.
There are lessons you have to learn yourself, that no one can teach you, but it’s nice to know which classes to take!
Read more about the reasons why, and the warnings about shark safety that are being ignored on the Large Marine Vertebrates Project website.
Preventing migration in a migratory species - It’s more fun in the Philippines (even-though-we-signed-the-Convention-on-Migratory-Species-and-pledged-to-protect-them).
Despite the potential wide-reaching negative effects of these migratory animals becoming accustomed to people and boats, the educational value of the interaction to increase awareness is the reason government officials are happy to encourage the practice.
If this is indeed the case, the educational aspects should at the very least be accurate. Using a whale fluke in the logo taxonomically incorrect. It encourages an already un-corrected view by many tourists that the whale shark, a fish, is a marine mammal.
If we are preventing the sharks from migrating for education and awareness, then at least let’s see some more proactive and accurate education. Not just from reporters but on site, where the tourists are.
Sign indicating tourist registration area for Whale Shark watching. Photo via The Tuki Chronicles.
The third episode from Feeding Giants: The Tuki Chronicles - a set of films following the development of the whale shark feeding in Oslob. This episode is about the researchers and features Anna Lucey, the previous project researcher, Alessandro Ponzo, the president of LA.MA.VE (and Phuslaus) and yours truly (cringe)…have a goosey gander…oh and no laughing!! x
I’m sorry Sal, I totally laughed at you. Only because you’re so dramatic about it :)
In all seriousness though, it is a drama. The reason why the LAMAVE project is here is because of the drastic consequences feeding could have on this threatened species. Check out some of the reasons why in this video.
It’s even more drama because other towns are >< this close to starting feeding. Moalboal is near the end of the process of putting an ordinance in place. If the whole of the south of Cebu starts feeding, the effects will be so much wider spread.
“Tuki” is the local word for Whale Shark. FYI.
Surprise! One of the Oslob whale sharks sneaking up on the researchers.
Hahahaha! That’s me in the blue fins, minding another sharks business when ‘Diver Eater’ comes up to ask for a snack and scares the shit out of us! Naughty Whale Sharks. Naughty humans for feeding them and making them act so crazy.
… when I arrived here, I found out two of the volunteers were fellow tumblritas?
diving-dork and I were already following each other, it only took two weeks to figure that one out. Her blog is gorgeous. sallysnowglobe makes awesome conservation video’s and gives a unique perspective on being a volunteer for conservation projects here in Philippines.
When you ladies sort your lives out, come back and visit me. I need help because THEY ARE SO CRAZY NOW.