Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oslob - Eco-Terrorism?

This is apparently Eco-Terrorism!

How I hate that shit!
No not the fashion shoot - the bloody frothy ramblings of the Shark huggers that are once again risking to sink a brilliant eco-tourism venture that is providing for income to communities who would otherwise remain poor and very likely resort to poaching those very same animals!

It's EXACTLY like when they established Whale swimming in Tonga - when the usual NGO idiots started to uhmm and aaah about not wanting people to interact with the Whales, the Tongans said we either eat them or we swim with them - and that was that, making this one of the preferred destinations of the image hunters and establishing one of the very few viable tourism attractions of the kingdom.

I've posted about the Oslob Whale Shark tourism here - and here is once again Shawn's award-winning video.

Shawn's excellent report is here.
There are also this equally balanced report and this report. And finally, please peruse this report by the local NGO that is against the feeding but is nevertheless using this as an opportunity for data collection - the latter a tad hypocritical if you ask me!
Oh and of course, we've got ourselves the usual frothy PETITIONS and APPEALS!

Long story short?
If Shawn's shoot where like all conservation photographers, he tried to raise awareness, and this via a novel approach, and where no Shark was harassed let alone hurt is ECO-TERRORISM,

what, please, is this!

So let's be perfectly clear about one thing.
THAT, not happy Sharks frolicking in the wilderness, or whatever, is the alternative to Whale Shark tourism - and it's once again simply appalling to witness how all that frothy activism is being totally misdirected instead of being invested into fighting the continued poaching of Whale Sharks and the continued legal slaughtering of Mantas in that very same region!

So, is everything perfect in Oslob?
Certainly not!
Like in so many other Whale Shark and Manta tourism destinations like e.g. Hanifaru or Holbox, the real challenge lays in adequate management - and in the case of Oslob, the latter is still evolving and in no way ideal. But that can be fixed!
In a wider context, this touches upon the Anthropogenic Allele Effect and the Rarity Paradox - and from an industry perspective, it's about multi-user sites where competition and one-upmanship ultimately lead to situations harming the very animals the industry relies upon.

In brief, it's often not so much about WHAT one does but rather, about HOW one does it, meaning that there is a requirement for adequate protocols and in many cases, oversight by the authorities.

I've just finished reading the new Techera and Klein, and here is an illustration of the Australian Whale Shark swimming regulations from that paper.

I find the flash photography ban crap as flashlight is NOTHING compared to the sun - but whatever, overall the protocols probably make sense.

And these are the procedures in Oslob.
Click for detail. See - they are even MORE stringent than in Oz!

And the feeding?
This very much reminds me of the controversy surrounding the provisioning of predatory Sharks where when put to the test, all of the reservations have ultimately been discredited as Shark-hugging hogwash - that is, provided that the operators had implemented adequate safety protocols!
Once again, it's not about the WHAT but about the HOW!

Case in point, this anti-feeding "info"-graphic - click for detail.

  • 1. Incorrect - those Whale Sharks only consume a small portion of their caloric needs from hand feeding, meaning they get most of their food from natural foraging behavior 
  • 2. Utter balderdash - Whale Sharks spend the majority of their life at or near the surface and are incidentally often seen feeding vertically in natural feeding situations
  • 3. These are subadults that do not (yet?) migrate. They inhabit the general region and incidentally,  most of them do not reside in Oslob but only visit for a few days before moving on.
  • 4. Speculative - much like the infamous "associating humans and food" meme, this needs to be substantiated by research - and BTW, the onus of proving those assertion lays with those who make them! WS are surface dwellers and naturally curious, meaning that accidental boat strikes are frequent everywhere. Incidentally, the boats feeding the Sharks do not have propellers.
And so it goes - see the Infinite Monkey Theorem!

To quote Shawn himself.
Poaching, fast moving large vessels and drift nets are killing whale sharks and driving them toward extinction. Hand feeding is NOT threatening them in such way. What Oslob offers is the opportunity for poor local communities to earn a living from conserving whale sharks, vs killing them. 
That this challenges some peoples idealistic principles of never feeding wildlife is both naive and narrow minded.

Amen brother!
And this shit - let's just hope that the consultations will lead to a change of mind and that the feeding will be allowed to continue. Provided that robust protocols are put into place!

Alas, I'm not terribly hopeful.
The NOISE by the screechy Sharkitarians appears to be pushing the politicos into engaging in populist activism. And if so, I fully expect the consequences to be devastating - for the region and ultimately for those Sharks! 
And whilst this is going down, the operators in Cendrawasih Bay are laughing all the way to the bank!

To be continued no doubt!


The Sharkman said...

I agree 100%. No harm was caused to the sharks and Shawn's photos are awesome.

Martin Graf said...

Well said Mike!