One of the biggest attractions in Oslob is the interaction with the baited whale sharks. Ever since it started, people from all over the world has come to this place just to swim with the sharks. Many of these people wrongly believe that there are no negative impacts to this interaction, but that’s not the case. 

In this article, you can read about why it’s wrong to swim with the whale sharks in Obslob. 

Why contact and interaction is bad

The most people does not know why it’s bad to interact with the whale sharks in this way, and that’s sad because it’s the sharks who get harmed, not the humans. 

There is actually an interaction code of conduct for people who swim with the sharks to follow, but even though they breach the guidelines, they don’t get punished.

The whale shark is a protected species in the Philippines under the Republic Act 9147, an act for the conservation and protection of wildlife and habitat in the Philippines. This law says that it’s illegal to harass these animals, and still it happens.

A study was made to calculate how many touches the whale shark gets within one hour of interaction with people. The study results were 29 touches per hour, where 89% was the touches of the feeders. This 89% connection was made by touching the whale sharks mouths and while putting their feet between the shark and the boat to prevent the shark from bumping into the boat while getting fed.

These feeders do occasionally hit the sharks and push them away to discourage them from eating, as they want to save food for the next group of tourists or to the next day.

They mislead the whale sharks and give them food, harm them and then lures them back into their cruelness. This is just one of the reasons why you shouldn’t swim with whale sharks in Oslob; there is more to come…

whale sharks oslob

Two visitors are enjoying the animal “attraction”…

Changed behavior and increasing injuries of the whale sharks

When the feeders feed the whale sharks in Oslob, they teach the sharks that boats and humans mean food. This means that the whale sharks of Oslob are today approaching unknown boats, instead of avoiding them. 

The changed behavior of the whale sharks has a risk for those who swim outside the protected waters. As they are a highly migratory species and have learned that boats and humans mean food, they can travel in the wrong direction and approach shark fishing boats.  

So, you might wonder what’s so wrong about the interaction with people, boats and whale sharks? That, I’m going to tell you. 

  • The whale sharks are not often exposed to the kinds of bacteria that we have on or skin, which can cause them infections. 
  • The constant friction from bumping against the boats may cause injuries to the whale sharks. From the rubbing and the repeated abrasion, they get injuries that appear white or red/inflamed.
  • The ”new” sharks that arrive at the feeders boats does not have any signs of these injuries/scars. But unfortunately, it only takes less than a week for them to develop these scars. 
  • The white scar they get on the first dorsal fin is an abrasion from the contact with the hull and outrigger of the paddleboats. 
  • Even though propeller boats are not allowed to operate in the interaction zone in Oslob, it still happens. And what happens to the sharks? Well, they approach the boat (boats and humans mean food) sometimes under the engine which can lead to harmful consequences for the sharks.
  • The shark Fermin is a good example of this behavior and injuries. Just google “Fermin the whale shark” and you will see the horrible truth about what this “attraction” does to these nice creatures. Several propellers cut to his face and eye, and still coming back for food.

You might think that the feeders are the bad guys in this situation, but it’s the paying tourists that makes this possible. Without the tourists, the feeders would have to get a new job. No interest in the “attraction”, no money to the feeders. And this applies to all animals attractions around the world!

Changes to the Whale Sharks Migration

Whale sharks are such species that are highly migratory, which means that they usually follow the path to find the seasonal bloom of plankton. These fish (yes a whale shark is the largest fish species in the world) are known to migrate long distance and across various countries. They have proof of a whale shark that swam all the way from the Philippines to Taiwan, and that’s a great distance!

The natural season for the whale sharks lasts about 60 days in Oslob. But since the ”feeders” import food from other regions and feed the sharks, they’re staying much longer than they used to. Instead of moving to other parts, they stay, as they don’t have to move since they always have food to eat. 

The longest recorded stay for a whale shark in Oslob was for 392 days, which is horrible. 

The feeding is a huge problem as it changes the pattern of the migratory of the whale sharks. And what people not know is that this could affect the breeding prospect for the Sharks in the future. This means that the sharks are prevented by the humans and their food, from fulfilling their biological purpose. Since the breeding prospects can be affected, it can also lead to an extension in the long run. 

Feeders give them poor nutrition

Since many the whale sharks have stopped following the nutritious blooms of plankton, they are now eating less natural food and don’t get the natural nutrition that they need. The natural plankton in Oslob consists of 12 different types of plankton, and when this kind of food is running out, they have to import from neighbor islands such as Ilo-Ilo and Bacolod. Since the waters around these islands only have about five different types of plankton, the whales will now have less nutrition in their food.

That’s not the only problem, the food also gets a loss of nutritional value due to storage and transportation, as the food can be imported from far away. Also, the pollution of the food and the low variety of plankton due to fishing methods are a big problem. Just imagine if you would have to eat the same thing day in and day out, instead of a varied diet?!

The whale shark also spends quite some time to chase these feeding boats, and that takes a lot of their energy. From these feeding boats, they don’t receive enough nutrition as they would if feeding in a natural environment. The feeders goal is not to feed them properly; they only feed them ”enough” so they can earn money and save the food for another group of tourists. 

See them in the wild instead!

This ”attraction” in Oslob have to stop. It’s a cruel act against the animals rights and the environment. In fact, you can see these animals in the wild in other parts of the country, which is a much better experience!

To see an animal in the wild is much better than seeing them in captivity or harmed due to the humans ”pleasure.” All animals should be free and live in their natural habitat in the wild! That’s how they are made to live, and that’s how it’s going to stay!

wild whale shark

After reading this, I hope that you get a better insight of how animal cruelty can look like. It might not seem like the animals get harmed, but when you see what’s going on behind the curtains and in the long-run, then it’s not so ”fun” anymore. 

Please share this with your friends and family. The animal cruelty have to come to an end!