- SCUBA Spearfishing and Aquarium Collecting Limits Proposed in Hawaii
- Boatmen and Tourist Guides Teach Whale Shark Care in the Philippines
The State Department of Land and Natural Resources is proposing that all SCUBA spearfishing be banned along West Hawaii’s shores, and that further restrictions be placed on collecting for the aquarium trade. The West Hawaii Fisheries Council recommended the changes in order to further protect the West Hawaii Fishery Management Area, which was formed in 1998 to protect popular aquarium species from being depleted. Thirty-five percent of the area is off-limits to collectors, which has allowed a rebound in species that make up the bulk of the aquarium trade. But because some populations are still struggling, the new regulations would create another area that is off-limits for collecting, and a “white list” of species that are allowed for collection. There would also be a total ban on SCUBA spearfishing, which means any diver in possession of SCUBA gear, speared fish, and spears at the same time will be in violation of the law, but freediving and shore diving spearfishermen will be exempt. There will be a public hearing held on the matter this summer, with a decision coming as soon as this fall.
Donsol, Sorsogon in the Philippines has long been known as a premiere destination for whale shark viewing. Since the early 90s, tourists have flocked to the area to get their moment with the gentle giants. Whale sharks are particularly attracted to the waters of the Philippines for their nutrient-rich waters, filled with plankton. But their docile demeanor has presented a problem where tourism is concerned: people interacting with the animals in a way that is not safe for the person or the animals. For this reason, experienced boatmen travel to other parts of the Philippines to educate boatmen in areas that are becoming whale shark attractions. The education extends to the tourists as well — in addition to teaching them respect for the animal’s home and space, they are teaching people how to swim. With funding from the United Nations Development Program, Donsol’s Butanding Ecotourism Development Project was implemented in 2008, and there are now 40 certified tour guides teach tourists how to interact with Donsol’s whale sharks. The success has been such that other local governments are sponsoring the board, lodging, and cost of the class for their citizens who want to go through the training program in Donsol. Part of their education includes how to restore mangrove forests to promote plankton growth, which is what brings the whale sharks in the first place. Because of the economic value of whale shark tourism, interest in the training and education has been high.