Fermin the Whale Shark Being Loved to Death

 

Visitors love Fermin. The whale shark swims close to tourist boats, knowing they have treats for him. The juvenile male is part of a group of six whale sharks being studied by the Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines. The research team began its work around Tan-awan, Oslob, Philippines in March 2011.

On July 16, 2012 Fermin’s only scars were the ones all of the sharks sport when they are fed by the tourist industry – callouses from rubbing their faces against the boats. The big shark lay low for a few days. When he reappeared on July 19th he had 11 new cuts along his left side, starting at his mouth, slashing over his eye, and down his side. Two of them were quite deep.

The pictures on the project’s blog are a disturbing reminder of the risks faced by marine animals so beloved of tourist operations and tourists. Although no motor boats are allowed within the area plied by the tourist boats, whale sharks don’t read the rules. Once they associate boats with food, they are no longer safe.

Fermin is not the only whale shark to have been slashed by propellers in the Tan-awan area. The number of injuries is rising, yet nearby towns are considering starting their own shark-feeding programs. Tourist dollars will rise. So will shark injuries.

Whale can grow to a length of more than 40 feet. They are gentle giants, making them the perfect targets for tourist boats. Besides the likelihood of injuries, they are also changing their migratory patterns to stay near the feeding areas. Samantha Craven, a scientist with the Large Marine Vertebrates Project told LiveScience:

If these sharks reach sexual maturity and don’t migrate to breeding grounds, they are effectively removed from the population and would no longer be adding to the numbers of genetic diversity of their species, which is listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ by the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature].

Once again wild creatures occupying a unique niche in the web of life are being exploited for the amusement of humans. If they disappear because of it, ecotourism operators and their customers will move on to the next sensation. The whale shark’s role in the ecosystem, however, will not be so easily replaced.

Related Care2 Stories

Sharks and Other Predators Are Essential for Ocean Health

21 Nations Block Effort to Create Giant Whale Sanctuary

Pacific Reef Sharks in Rapid Decline – Are Humans to Blame?

Photo from lotuspilgrim via Flickr Creative Commons

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90 comments

Sandra I.
Sandra I.2 years ago

Thank you so sad.... We need to stop trying to interfere with animals just for our pleasure and amusement and collectively learn to just enjoy animals knowing they are out there in the world living good lives.......

Harsha A.
Harsha A.3 years ago

Very SAD

Marie Therese Hanulak

Humans causing harm to animals? What else is new?

Isabel A.
Isabel Araujo3 years ago

Why can we just enjoy nature in her own terms? Petition signed, thank you.

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch3 years ago

The only time you should be legally able to feed Marine Mammals, is when you are part of a rescue/rehab facility!

Otherwise, stay away and just enjoy nature on her own terms.

Valentina R.
Valentina R.3 years ago

Boats are dangerous for marine mammals, is it too difficult to understand, I wonder?
Signed the petition.

Georgia Armstrong
Georgia a.3 years ago

Why has the intelligence level of mankind dropped so badly? Oh yes, the almighty dollar. It seems everything these days revolves around making a buck, no matter who or what gets harmed. Are parents not doing their jobs teaching their children or are the children just not giving a damn when they reach adulthood? I learned responsibility at an early age and it stayed with me. There is no amount of money on this planet for which I would harm an animal. Even when I'm a tourist, I am responsible to my surroundings, be it an animal, tree or individual. I wish no harm to anyone or anything.

Thomas B.
Thomas Brueckner3 years ago

When will that profit making people learn from their failures? I think never!!

Frans B.
Frans Badenhorst3 years ago

sooo SAD! we humans,... and to think we are trusted with taking care of everything on this earth

Lucille P.
Lucille P.3 years ago

poor thing