Philippines tourist town reports rise in shark numbers
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines has reported a marked rise in interactions with the giant fish in Donsol in the final quarter of 2013, resulting in increasing tourist numbers.
“For two years now, whale shark sightings in Donsol have been scant during the normal December to May season. In October 2012, however, we noticed they came early. This November, we have been posting more and more interactions,” said Donsol boat association president Lambert Avisado. “It seems that our Butandings have returned – but that they have changed their schedules,” he added.
“We saw this drop in numbers once before – about 12 or 13 years ago,” according to Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) association president Joel Briones.“Since there were few whale sharks that year, tourist numbers plummeted. Since early November, however, we have recorded almost daily sightings. Word is getting around. Tourists are starting to arrive,” he added.
Fluctuations in shark numbers have dictated the success and failure of local tourism. Historically, Donsol’s whale shark season has coincided with planktonic blooms.
“Whale sharks congregate in Donsol because of all the food,” said WWF-Philippines Project Manager Raul Burce. “Plankton blooms occur when nutrients are discharged by Donsol’s rivers. To ensure that the Bay remains healthy, we must protect Donsol’s rivers” he added.
Three hundred eighty whale sharks have been identified in five years of WWF research in the area. For years, Donsol has been renowned as a whale shark hotspot, hosting one of the world’s largest whale shark aggregations. Under normal circumstances, peak season tours promise from four to six assured interactions per trip.