Ethical difficulties of whale shark snorkeling

Ethical difficulties of whale shark snorkeling

After spending a great week in Malapascua (Philippines), the world capital of thresher sharks, we headed to the southern Cebu, to the small town of Oslob, famous for having year-round whale sharks feeding. Here local fishermen realized that they can make money out of feeding whale sharks with shrimps.

We got from Oslob to the place by local “taxi”, sitting on the 2nd place on the scooter and holding my DLSR with UW housing in my hands, while driving along the wet slippery serpentine. That was the invigorating start of the day.

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Shark swim vertically and suck the shrimps from the surface. After a while shark become bored, swim several meters away and start feeding again. Local whale sharks are 5-6 meters long, much less than their maximum lenght – they can grow up to 14 meters.

If you decide to go there, you should remember about several things which can make your day worse than you expected. First of all, the number of tourists is enormous – everybody goes here for the whale shakrs. The smell of shripms is everywhere, and the visibility could be much better. Nevertheless, it worth visiting if you haven’t seen this big guys before. And you should also remember that you can go to jail if you touch the shark.

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How this way of making tourism affects the ecosystem and the living of wild animals?  Many conservationists claim that feeding in Oslob is wrong, unnatural and unethical. If you google “Oslob” you can find several articles with scary titles and pics of bloody corpses of whale sharks killed by bad guys.

I understand that conservationists who write such articles love sharks. And they also love shark diving in places like Tiger Beach or Capetown, where exactly the same process takes place – shark feeding, but with the different species of sharks. The only real difference is that here in Oslob anyone can go in the water with the sharks, while in Tiger beach and other places it looks like “diving for the chosen” or “diving for the brave”, because there we dive with dangerous sharks. Isn’t it hypocritical?

I love diving with sharks and I don’t blame anyone who feeds the sharks, as long as it doesn’t cause a real harm to the animal. If the animal feels uncomfortable, it will simply go away. And I don’t think that the shark can forget how to find food if you feed it.

What is your opinion?

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Portrait: Tiger shark.

I was lukcy to dive with these sharks in the best place you can imagine, famous Tiger beach, Bahamas. This was my first “serious” shark dive. Fairly speaking, first time it was scary. But after a short time it became so much fun and I became a shark friend.

Tiger sharks are wide spread in tropical and equatorial waters around the world. This guys grow up to 4-4.5 meters and weight from 400 to 650 kilos. Tigers eat literally everything they can grab – fish, invertebrates, turtle, birds, mammals and even smaller tiger sharks.

Tiger sharks are massive and slow moving. They swim smoothly, like enormous airships, circling around feeder and other divers. Strenght and speed are hidden under their slowness. When shark makes an attempt to grab the chum or the feeder, it moves very rapidly. I’ve noticed how the group instinct works on people – those who were diving with tigers the first time, including myself, were constantly trying to move closer to each other and to protect their back, quite the same as sardines or herring which noticed a predator. Sharks come close, and you need to make a barrier between yourself and shark. That time I was a happy guy and haven’t used a DLSR camera underwater, so I had to protect myself with a plastic stick. When shark comes close, it closes the eyes.I suppose it’s made to protect the eyes.

The guys who work in Tiger beach behave with tiger sharks as if they were pets – playing with them, scratching bellys, grabbing noses etc. At first it looks insane, but then you realise it’s just okay. Sometimes shark makes an attempt to attack feeder, but those guys are well-prepaired and don’t have any accidents. Fairly speaking, all guys who involved in shark diving industry are cool guys and great divers. And they never have serious accidents with the sharks.

There are also carribean reef sharks and lemon sharks feeding around in Tiger beach. Once a great hammerhead came to us, but it’s shy species and usually afraid of tigers so we saw it just for a couple of seconds.