Motor boats in the water use propellor engines,. These pose a risk to any living creature when they are running at any given speed. As a result, both marine creatures, such as whale sharks, and swimmers are prone to substantial injury, and possible death, if they come in contact with the propellor.
Sadly, all across the world whale sharks, as well as dolphins and whales, show clear scars resulting from interactions with boat propellors. Actually, 40% of identified whale sharks in Nosy Be show scars that are likely due to boat propellors. Dead whale sharks, unlike cetaceans, will not float at the surface so it remains difficult to estimate the impact of boat propellor scars on whale shark longevity.
Yet, as all sharks in Nosy Be are immature individuals still too young to reproduce, it is crucial they reach sexual maturity (9+ meters) so they can reproduce and help ensure the survival of the species.
Another reason is to not bother the sharks’ natural behaviour. In order to investigate the impact of boats and swimmers on whale sharks, Pierce et al. 2010 studied avoidance behaviours, such as banking (when the shark shows its back to the swimmer in a defence mechanism), which were shown to be correlated with the number of boats around at the time of the encounter. More boats meant a higher incidence of avoidance behaviours. On the flip side, these avoidance behaviours were less frequent when there were fewer boats around and when swimmers were relaxed.
Another benefit that comes with adopting a code of conduct is to enhance customer satisfaction, and provide them with the best possible experience so they will recommend both the place and the operator in the future. A study by Ziegler et al. 2012 in Mexico showed customer satisfaction was directly correlated with longer interactions with whale sharks and fewer people around; meaning better photographic opportunities, less splashing around and a more relaxed whale shark.
Having a good code of conduct in place works to minimise any possible impacts of tourism on whale sharks while also improving client satisfaction.
Adopting the code of conduct will only smooth interactions while at sea. It provides clients with a life-changing experience and a relaxed atmosphere between operators while adopting a respectful approach for the whale sharks and also for other operators in the area; even if it means waiting little longer.
Let’s work together to protect the whale sharks of Madagascar!
We are working directly with tourism operators in Nosy Be to ensure the code of conduct is respected. Each year we deliver training workshops; all the companies who have attended are listed below.
As a client, please choose a responsible operator. Want to become a responsible operator? Stay posted for the dates for the 2019 workshops!