2009.05.23 Makoto Nakagawa
Donsol is a coastal town lying to the south-east of the Philippines' capital Manila. Whale sharks, the largest living fish in this world, visit this quiet town between December and May every year. Feeding mainly on plankton, whale sharks swim slowly just below the surface. This attracts a lot of people who want to snorkel with this gentle animal. About 7000 tourists visited Donsol in 2005, generating substantial tourist revenues and job opportunities for a town that had no experience of tourism before.
In Donsol, the whale sharks used to be considered a nuisance that tore up fishermen's nets. Since whale shark meat is of high-value, priced at USD17 per kilo, the number of whale sharks in the area rapidly decreased. With the support of WWF Philippines and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the town of Donsol started community-based whale shark ecotourism. This sustainable tourism aims to bring stability to the lives of local people by protecting whale sharks rather than killing them. This is a showcase project, which benefits fishermen who had previously been suffering from decreasing fish catch due to accelerating climate change and population growth. The attention now is focused on the future outcomes.