As there is a local tourism industry directly based on swimming with the whale sharks, we are working directly with operators to implement best-practice sustainable whale shark tourism, based on training packages previously used successfully in Mozambique and Tanzania, and eventually train guides in the collection of whale shark photo-identification and data collection. This has the dual benefit of ensuring consistent, cost-effective data collection over the year, while also engaging operators and other local stakeholders in the process of developing management strategies. As whale sharks lack protection off Nosy Be yet are an important focal species for tourism, we will also be collecting annual business revenue from businesses associated with whale shark tourism to provide information on the socioeconomic importance of whale sharks.
Tanguy, guide and owner at Les Baleines Rand’eau and project partner, gives a briefing about whale sharks to tourists
During our 2016 season, together with our on-site partner Les Baleines Rand’eau we organised a presentation for all the whale watching and diving operators that could attend an October 2016 meeting. Having a good code of conduct in place works to both minimise any possible impacts of tourism on whale sharks, while also improving client satisfaction. All the operators present decided to trial these recommendations so they could assess their practicality in local conditions. From the following day onwards we could already see positive adoption of these recommendations, with each boat patiently waiting for their turn when another boat was swimming with a shark. Further work on this aspect will be pursued in the 2017 season.