Saving the World and swimming with Whale Sharks
Being named the largest fish species with an estimated measurement of up to 20-35 feet, the whale shark tends to leave a large impression wherever it swims.

And now, the life-changing experience of swimming with the whale shark will not only affect how you view the world, but how the world sees the whale shark and the efforts being made to preserve the environment. These THREE contributions—by no means small—will be the result of your once in a lifetime experience with the whale shark.

1. Citizen Scientist Track Whale Sharks:

whale-shark-cancun-swim2The ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-Identification Library is a virtual database of whale  shark encounters. The pictures are uploaded by snorkelers—citizen scientists—and biologists use a system similar to the Hubble telescope used to identify stars to match the skin patterns behind the gills of each shark and any scars to distinguish between individual animals. The white, checkered-pattern is unique to each whale shark and functions as a fingerprint. The images are compared to existing photographs and categorized as a new sighting or flagged as a returning visitor. With cutting-edge software, biologists use these white-checkered designs to identify migratory patterns and learn more about this mysterious creature. To date, more than 28,000 photos have been collected from around the world. Tip: When photographing the whale shark, the most important thing to remember is to remain at least 3 meters (10 feet) away from the shark to not alter their behavior.

2. Awareness Leads to Conservation:

Whale Shark ID and tagging system Despite an increase in research over the past decade, the biology and ecology of whale sharks remain an enigma, with still much to learn to assist efforts in conserving the species. The whale shark is currently listed as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Up to 1,000 whale sharks were hunted in Taiwan last century before a government ban in 2001. The change of attitude towards the world’s gentle giant is in large part due to the attention people like Dave Duran bring to the animals. Duran is a cameraman turned diver in Taiwan who 12 years ago shared his footage of the whale shark with the world and brought the international spotlight to that part of the world and to the whale shark. Because of this and the diffusion of information, in 2005, the Mexican government set aside 247,105 acres of Isla Mujeres ocean as a protected area for the whale shark. But despite all these advances, there is still a threat to the future of this beautiful creature. By bringing attention to the whale shark and this kind of tourism, travelers highlight the beauty of the world’s largest fish species, encouraging others to learn and preserve.

3. Economic Gain for Local Economies:

Whale Sharks are strongly protected in the Phillipines Well-managed ecotourism has a tremendous economic and ecologically sustainable impact. The economic gain—from a business perspective—generated from whale shark ecotourism benefits the local economy and the environment. Whale shark tourism first started in the late 1980s in Australia and has now proliferated to at least 20 other locations around the world, including several locations in Mexico. An estimated 100,000 people participate in whale shark tourism activities around the world annually, paying up to $350 USD for a single encounter, which in turn generates millions of dollars for local economies. In Donsol, Sorsogon in the Philippines, the whale shark ecotourism industry shifted the municipality poverty line from rank 76 amongst the poorest to a rank of 17. In Mexico, tourism represented income for the country in 12,900 million dollars in 2007. Tourism provided more than 180,000 jobs. Mexico is properly positioned for prosperity and growth in tourism, benefiting local communities throughout the country. The country’s leading tourism authorities are aware of the benefits of ecotourism and plan future investments with this in mind, including such things as the preservation of the whale shark in the warm waters of the Mexican Caribbean.

Will you contribute to saving the world?


About the Author:


Pamela Acosta is a travel photographer and writer for Yucatan Holidays. She is seeking to travel throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, Riviera Maya & Cancun in an attempt to capture beauty and wonder in words & pixels. Follow Pamela on Twitter

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Yucatan Holidays


5 Responses to “How Your Swim with Whale Sharks Will Save the World”

  1. Howard Miller

    I recently took a swim with whale sharks tour from out of Puerto Juarez. This is the ferry port that has service between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. All I can say is that for everyone in our group, it was a life changing experience for sure! Our guides were excellent, and very attentive, even with helping the weaker swimmers, which included me I must admit. It was an amazing trip that I cannot recommend enough if you’re in the Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Mayan Riviera area during the summer months, it should be on everyones “to do list.”

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