The Maldivian Whale Shark Research Program (MWSRP) has been featured on the BBC World News fast:track program, which includes footage of a shark mobbed by dozens of tourists from nearby boats.
The MWSRP was recently the subject of controversy over its use of tagging, a method it claims it ceased in May 2009.
Local divers and safari boats claimed the tagging was scaring the sharks away from their habitat in the Maamigilli area of South Ari atoll.
The researchers however argued that the sheer number of tourists swimming with the sharks, together with congested boat traffic around the animals, was to blame, and provided data from their research that suggested the tagging was unrelated. The Maamagilli area, they noted, was unique in that even sharks who travelled as far as India always returned to the same area.
The controversy culminated when the researchers were threatened at knife point by a staff member from a safari boat.
Shortly afterwards, the Ministry of Fisheries suspended the MWSRP’s research permit in late January pending an investigation into the tagging methods. The researchers have meanwhile indicated their willingness to continue the program without tagging, placing greater emphasis on education and community involvement.
In the BBC program the researchers emphasised their work with local schools and resorts. However during a spotting trip with a film crew and a group of school students, the researchers came across a whale shark surrounded by boats and tourists, which BBC journalist Mike London describes as “an almost textbook example of the kind of encounter the program is keen to stamp out.”
MWRSP researcher Adam Harman comments that “there’s a lot of splashing going on in the water and unfortunately too many boats and too many people for us to go in, so we’re just going to avoid it.”
Concluding the program, London reports that through developing ‘best practice’ proceedures and codes of conduct with the tourist industry, the MWSRP “aims to stop large scale whale shark encounters like the one we’ve just seen, which it fears could eventually scare the sharks away.”
President of the Divers Assocication Maldives (DAM), Zoona Naseem, said the organisation favoured the establishment of proper guidelines for whale shark encounters, adding “it does not matter whether it’s tourists or researchers – no one should be touching the whale sharks.”
Watch the program here:
fast:track uncovers the Maldivian Whale Shark
21 thoughts on “BBC films as whale shark mobbed by tourists”
I feel we are being dominated by a foreign team in the name of research. The MWSRP was featured on a BBC program for no other reason but to strengthen this domination.
"The researchers have meanwhile indicated their willingness to continue the program without tagging, placing greater emphasis on education and community involvement."
I hope the researchers are asked to culminate their research programme and leave before they become a bigger headache for the Maldivian government.
If these foreigners are interested in conducting whale shark research they can go elsewhere to conduct their research.
Talk about avoiding the subject. The issue is the Whale Shark. And clearly, the safari boats and tourists are not treating the animals as they should. Shame on them.
i don't believe everything boils down to foreign domination, and i am waiting for the outcome of the investigation. i believe that urgent measures are needed to protect the habitat and feeding/mating grounds of whale sharks, the largest known endemic species in the Maldives, i also believe that it is improper to interact with a wild species, be it tagging or a boat load of snorkelers or divers, i also believe in a marine protected zone, the whale sharks doesn't belong to any nationality, the fact they reside in the Maldives doesn't mean that 'foreigners' should not be allowed to make studies of it, i also believe that the national environment protection agency is not doing any conservation efforts, if so i want to know whether apart from protecting the whale shark with a regulation what are the programs being conducted by the government, i also want to know whether the Divers Association would be responsible for the outcome of this situation, the extreme situation being that possible extinction of a relatively unknown species of the largest shark known to man.. i also believe that the whale shark program must be a joint program with the relevant government agencies and the civil society so that the program is not affected by the 'capitalist drive' of the tourism industry, be it tourist resorts sponsoring the program, or diving and snorkeling and safari boat industry.
how sad that us maldivians now hate people just because they are 'foreign'. researchers not done any wrong yet cowards at ministry take license away.
Interesting... If my memory serves correct Maldivian divers were quick to point there fingers at the research team and even threaten them with physical violence, claiming that the research was driving these beautiful creatures away. Few bothered to take into consideration that the conduct of local safaris, divers and tourists might be a contributing factor.
What bothered me most was the reaction of Divers Association of Maldives (DAM). Ahmed Risheen from the advisory board of DAM was quick take the side of the local safaris and condemn the research citing that there tagging methods were driving there animals away. Worst is the fact that he did not bother to acknowledge that the conduct of the local safaris might also be contributing to driving these animals away.
The word foreign itself is slightly offensive and rude for me. i would prefer if people were refered by their nationality rather than refering to them as AlIEN. JUST because some people are not local does not mean they are foreign.Especially in this day and age when we live in such a global village its about time we use the correct term to address people.
Please let us not start this again! Let us work together!! Maldives is a special place for whale shark. More special than most places in the world. We need to know why and then we can protect them more so they stay in Maldives...then we can tak tourist to see them forever. We all know that some of our dive sites are not what they used to be. Let us work together to protect our beautiful underwater world.
The Maldives is a wonderful place with some spectacular dive sites. Although as 'Safari Boat Owner' says, most of them are not what they used to be. You should listen to him/her.
I have dived and photographed most of the best dive sites in the world and the Maldives is probably the only place left in the world where 10s of tourists are allowed to swim, jump on and touch the whale shark. If there is a photo of a whale shark with 10s of tourists surrounding it, there's only one place it has been taken - MALDIVES. This doesn not say good things to potential tourists?
Australia, Mexico, Honduras and even the Philipines all have strict guidelines. Some places only allow 2 people in the water with a shark at any one time...and guess what, people love that experience more than sharing the shark with a hundred people and being kicked in the face by a stranger trying to get a better view of the shark. And they pay more money for the experience.
The Maldives is behind the rest of the world. If you do not start to protect (not just name protected areas but enforce them) your tourist industry will decrease.
The majority of people come to the Maldives to dive with sharks. Protect your sharks and they will stay forever...and so will your tourist industry.
Work together - The government, divers, tour operators, researchers and tourists should be helping each other!
I hope this happens so I can enjoy your country as it once used to be.
DAM represents just a few dive schools not all divers. why do we even listen to them?
So you think “foreigners” are the problem. You must be a 100% pure hypocritical racist. When it continent for you are happy with Tourist Dollar. Ask them not to visit Maldives.
Think with your brain
Xpress, why don't you yourself first reconsider your racist remarks. We don't see the point in an "alien" party threatening us at "gun point" using resources available to them and out of reach for the locals to present their side, in the name of the protection of sharks.
Well its like, come and see the Maldives, pay us to do that we do it correctly. the locals are destrying the MALDIVES.....
this is the trend.... use the media BBC and all.. ADAM HERMAN your latest gimmik
before we stayed put til these things went on....but its time locals get more benifit of tourism... there are things to be corrected...we will correct them...
if they want to do research, why did they have to drop in this place developed trough years of interaction... there are other places in the MALDIVES.. why dont you go there...we will push you out ADAM HERMAN and team.there is a positive side also.. but you take the negative things and try to wil your way... the shark that lost the fin was also blamed on the locals. We are angry..try coming and doing research. you started with zero all were trial and error as your reports said. this had an impact
The Ministry has suspended their research permit and it should not be renewed again, in my opinion.
“The researchers have meanwhile indicated their willingness to continue the program without tagging, placing greater emphasis on education and community involvement.”
Do you really think a research team from a foreign country will stay in Maldives to educate the locals about the sharks and to involve the community? Involve the community in what? In educating the locals? About whale sharks?
This is why I said I feel we are being dominated by the research team. Now they want to dictate to us what we should do and what we should not do.
We may not have the resources and the manpower required to place tracking devices on the bodies of these sharks. But we have capable people who can make reasonable regulations and guidelines.
We do not need a foreign research team to tell us how many boats should be allowed at the shark sighting spots, how many people should be allowed to swim with the animals, how long one boat can stay and how long one batch of tourists can swim with the animals.
As per what I have heard, the shark sighting spot at Maamigili is always crowded. Why do we need to add even one more boat to this crowd? If we want the research team to do their work, we are increasing the crowd, not decreasing.
We want to reduce the crowd.
I am not a shark expert but in my mind, there being lots of tourists just swimming with the sharks should not frighten these animals. My reason being these animals are used to seeing and even swimming through schools of fish when they are out in the ocean. For the sharks, the swimming tourists will be just another species of fish.
But if the tourists are allowed to touch the animals and interfere with its path, then the animals will probably get frightened and even aggravated.
To know this and to make guidelines and regulations so as to prevent any detrimental effects caused by man to the visiting of these animals, we do not need a foreign team based in Maldives.
I think ADAM HERMAN is a nice guy in person... but what he does is so wrong... sorry dude,Maldives government is failed, soon you guys have to leave this place... i knew you are going to write something through BBC, and says BBC said this and that... but thats fine,... you guys were there every time whale shark was mobbed, same place, inside that group of people. MWRSP was using the flash camera's right next to whale shark's eye, so don't blame others... hehehe... you guys can write or give interviews to BBC or CNN or any world top medias, but the tourism here will never change,Even British they don't really trust what their boys do in Maldives or anywhere... we can change our prices low, and bring billions of Chinese...Chinese and Korean's can still travel here in a cheap...Good luck everybody... people come here to see those animals, so they have right to see those animals, when ever possible, so BBC or what ever it is, they shouldn't complain, MWSRP thinks that this Maldives water is owned buy them, thats why they give such kind of informations to international media...
Any way they will leave Maldives or they will be kicked out from Maldives. ciao
Robin, you really are incomprehensibly stupid. Just listen to yourself:
"I am not a shark expert but in my mind, there being lots of tourists just swimming with the sharks should not frighten these animals. My reason being these animals are used to seeing and even swimming through schools of fish when they are out in the ocean. For the sharks, the swimming tourists will be just another species of fish."
You are correct in one thing: you are not an expert. So shut up.
so my comments on this was moderated again so what rule did i break this time? you guys are a bunch of control freaks..and i know this is not the way minivan used to run, it was democratic, and you guys are even planting comments which were moderated and deleted..like my attarturk comments. and now my comment on this story been deleted..its time you guys started by being ethical..and this is my last comment on this site as 'g' or ramses..
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"In the BBC program the researchers emphasised their work with local schools and resorts. However during a spotting trip with a film crew and a group of school students, the researchers came across a whale shark surrounded by boats and tourists, which BBC journalist Mike London describes as “an almost textbook example of the kind of encounter the program is keen to stamp out.”
FYI the BBC crew were there i think last month, i mean FEB, unfortunately they didn't spot any Whale Shark that day, Where is there 100% guaranteed scientific data's? MWRSP took some school childrens that day...MWRSP tried to reached their tagged whale sharks with their communications system,i think those whale sharks didn't get the message of MWRSP team, because it was too hot that day. so they didn't see any...thats the reason why they gave such kind of article or interview to BBC... i wonder where is the science behind that. i know they are nice people in person, completely wrong in this matter. They shouldn't do whale shark research in that area... they can just go and watch and take pictures like others who is paying $$$$ to see those amazing animals... Guys try to work together with something else, not whale shark research or manta research...MALDIVES government have to find something else to keep them here in Maldives,... if not something bad will happen to them,i don't want to predict anything, so i hope they leave the Maldives and stop their stupid Research in that area. That area is not only for them, its for all of us, we are getting paid and they are also earning millions of dollars...
Reading the comments, from what seems to be a small group of people, it is clear that there is a lack of understanding of why research is important.
So why is research important?....well, where does one start? Let's begin with fossil fuels being consumed or rain forests being destroyed. Without research we would not know that the rain forests have been destroyed therefore reducing the re-production of the world's oxygen, in turn increasing temperatures, melting the polar ice cap which results in a rise in sea levels which (you've guessed it) will swallow the Maldives. We know this through RESEARCH.
How many of you have had a sick family member or maybe your mother, sister or wife had difficulties giving birth. Without years of medical research they may of died. Research is what has made blood, organ and even heart transplants possible.
Without research we would not know that tigers, gorillas...or whale shark numbers are threatened. If we did not know, these animals would be extinct before we knew it...and no one could enjoy them ever again!
The list goes on.....
Without research the effects that humans have had on this planet would be more dramatic.
RESEARCH IS IMPORTANT! Accept it and learn to live together.
We Agree with research, but not in that place, and not by that group of " Scientists" or who ever they are... they are doing business not research, and they are blaming us and our tourists, for seeing those animals, Shaz... you shouldn't support anyone who sell our animals to those rich people in the world in the name of research. me i can't support that kind of activities on my home land and our sea's...
I agree with the person who said Adam Harman is a nice guy. And he is doing an important job here. He is practically a saint with the charity work he is doing to protect the whale sharks of the world. And I am sure he knows a lot more than all the dive masters and instructors out there who take people to see the whale sharks. Him and the rest of his teams are the ones studying them. That is why your government listens to them and not the opinion of the mass!
Jeffery,.. Unfortunately Maldives government has to send them, or Soon the locals will kick them out...I don't want anything bad to happen. Adam Harman is a nice guy, but just in person. the job they do here is nothing important for us, we been watching this whale sharks since we were kids. and we can also now predict where we will see the whale sharks, there are many places in this Maldives where we see whale sharks.I'm telling you Adam Harman and his team still can't tell us where and exactly what time we will see the whale sharks.so what was the use of those tags they attached.
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