Saturday 1st Apr 2023
Dhivehi Edition
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Campaign Urges Tourists to Adopt Whale Shark Code of Conduct in the Maldives

A new campaign launched this week by Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWRSP), Maldives Resilient Reefs (MRR), and Blue Marine Foundation is urging tourists to choose tour operators who have adopted a new whale shark code of conduct when visiting the Maldives' marine wildlife. The #BeGentleToGiants campaign aims to protect the iconic gentle giant of the ocean, the whale shark, from the negative impacts of marine encounters.
The South Ari Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Maldives is home to a unique and naturally occurring year-round aggregation of whale sharks, with no whale shark found here recorded anywhere else in the world. Sadly, the population of whale sharks has declined by at least 16% since 2014. A significant 45% of whale sharks in the South Ari MPA waters now show signs of major injury, many of which are attributed to boat strikes. To reduce the risk of these collisions, the code of conduct requires tour operators to cruise below ten knots within the reef.
The code of conduct also recommends limiting the disturbance to these filter-feeding sharks during encounters by promoting just one boat per shark, and encouraging those in the water to give the whale sharks space and minimize splashes and sudden movements. Crowded or noisy encounters can alter the natural behavior of these gentle giants.
Shaha Hashim of Blue Marine and MRR said, "The current whale shark tourism in the South Ari MPA is not only unsustainable, but it is also dangerous for the whale sharks and tourists. It is crucial that all tour operators who use the area sign up to the #BeGentleToGiants code of conduct and abide by it to safeguard the whale sharks and their businesses while providing an enjoyable experience to their guests."
Ibrahim Usman, President of Dhigurah Council, stated, "Protecting whale sharks is very vital to promoting tourism in South Ari and the Maldives. To protect whale sharks, we must give our commitment and support to all activities and practices that promote policies and regulations in the South Ari MPA."
John Rogers, General Manager of LUX* South Ari Atoll, which is championing the code of conduct, said, "It would be great to see whale shark tourism in the Maldives carefully regulated to avoid losing sight of whale sharks completely. Proper regulations will not only protect the sharks but will continue to attract tourists to visit South Ari Atoll and benefit the tourist industry in the long term."
The campaign has received support from various stakeholders in the tourism industry, including Scubaspa, MV KEANA, EURODIVERS dive center, and others. The message is clear: it is crucial for all stakeholders to make a choice to protect the whale sharks in the South Ari Marine Protected Area for the sake of the species, the tourists, and the industry.