Whale Shark Season is approaching and you can play a large part in conserving and protecting the largest fish in the world by participating in one of these tours! How? Why? Read on and find out.
Snorkeling with the Whale Sharks is the best way to protect this fish. As of 2016, the Whale Shark was placed on the endangered species list, not due to activities in Mexico, but due to activities in Asia where Whale Sharks are fished and taken to market for their meat and fins. Mexico has the best track record for preserving the Whale Shark. There is no demand for the fish, and fisherman do not need their meat for local economies. What Mexican fisherman have discovered is that Whale Sharks are more profitable alive then dead. That’s right. Whale Sharks are better for the local economy alive.
The success of the Whale Shark tours prove this.
The History of Whale Shark Tours in The Riviera Maya
Local fisherman created these tours in the early 90’s. They discovered where the whale sharks migrated to, and began marketing the tours to locals and visitors interested in marine life. Gradually the tours became popular, not as popular as they are today, but popular in comparison to what they were in the early 90’s. This was one for the first ecotourism initiatives in the area, and today there are only more that have followed…not less.
In 2004 a national conservation group worked with the fisherman to build environmental protection regulations for the whale shark tours. Over a period of two years guides were trained, regulations were implemented and the tours became an even more important part of the local economy and ecology.
If you are lucky enough to participate on a whale shark tour, you will be participating in one of many ecotourism initiatives. By doing so there are some important rules to follow.
1. All participants need to wear a flotation device for safety and to prevent any free diving. Life Jackets are provided by each tour company but you can use your personal wet suit as a flotation device.
2. Only two participants are allowed in the water with a guide at a time.
3. All guides are certified by the federal environmental agency and provided appropriate training. If you guide is not certified, please do not go on their tour.
4. Snorkelers can not touch the whale sharks nor can they get too close to the whale shark.(within a foot of the whale shark)
5. All snorkelers are provided a briefing before the tour, either on the boat or on land, to further their understanding of the whale shark, the regulations and ways to help conserve and protect the largest fish in the world.
6. Whale Shark Tours are snorkeling tours only, and are only conducted with experienced and trained guides. This is not a tour you can do on your own nor can people scuba dive with the whale sharks.
The 10th annual Whale Shark Festival kicks off with a parade on Thursday, July 20 in Isla Mujeres. The festival includes kid’s activities such as sand sculpting events and crafts. Exhibitions that showcase the beauty of the island will feature presentations by marine biologists, walking tours of whale shark murals, local photography and an artisans market.
This is a fun festival for everyone that has an important environmental message. If we protect our natural surroundings and marine life in the Riviera Maya, we will not only conserve what makes this area so beautiful but we will be able to share these unique natural areas with the world.
Do you want to help us preserve and protect the largest fish in the world? Email Pauline at Guest Services and book your Whale Shark Tour today. Whale Shark Season begins June 1 and ends around September 15, though that is determined by the Whale Sharks themselves…!