Environmentalists and conservationists from different parts of the country converged in Tagbilaran City, Bohol last November 15-16, 2018 and got to listen to updates on interventions that the Cebu Provincial Government, through a technical working group (TWG) it formed, has done to improve visitor experience as well as protect the whale sharks in Tan-awan, Oslob, Cebu.
The three-day “3rd Shark Summit” was organized by the Save Shark Network Philippines, a coalition of organizations and institutions conserving sharks and rays in the country.
Participants, including representatives from the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office (CPTO) led by Provincial Tourism Officer Joselito Costas, revisited and evaluated the progress of commitments made during the 2nd Shark Summit in 2016. They also “assessed how the new and old commitments will be carried out in the next two years, in preparation for the completion of the 2020 Roadmap.”
The CPTO briefed representatives of different conservation organizations, local governments, and stakeholders from around the country on formation of the TWG and what it had done to address concerns raised against the whale shark watching attraction in Oslob, including overcrowding and sanitation.
The town of Oslob lies in the southeastern coast of the province of Cebu and is 117 kilometers from Cebu City. Tour operators has identified whale shark watching in barangay Tan-awan as the number one come on for foreign visitors of the province.
Among the interventions the TWG came up with is the setting of the carrying capacity at 800 a day, or around half of the average of 1,500 visitors a day, which was agreed that it would be implemented as soon as facilities improvements are in place.
Another is the expansion of the interaction area (upon the suggestion of the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) and moving it deeper towards the sea, to avoid damage to the ecosystem in the shallower area.
Participants welcomed the creation of the TWG and its actions. At the conclusion of the summit, they agreed to come up with a resolution that no other whale shark watching activities should be adopted in the country for tourism purposes.