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Researcher taking a photo ID of whale sharks in Donsol, Philippines. Coral Triangle Adventures

Coral Triangle Adventures supports Whale Shark Research in the Philippines

Large Marine Vertebrates research Institute of the Philippines Logo - coral triangle adventuresPart of the origins of Coral Triangle Adventures began in the small, coastal village of Donsol, Sorsogon, Philippines. Dubbed the ‘whale shark capital of the world’, Donsol has been the place to go for exceptional encounters with whale sharks since the late 1990s. We have been bringing groups there for over a decade and over the years have grown to appreciate the local efforts to protect the whale shark and promote their conservation.

Working in the country since 2010, the Large Marine Vertebrate Research Institute of the Philippines (LAMAVE), registered as a Filipino non-profit NGO (non-government organization) to boost its work to promote conservation of marine biodiversity in the Philippines through scientific research. Of course, as their name implies, their main focus was, and still is, on the conservation of large marine animals such as whale sharks, rays, dolphins, and whales. Given their focus, the whale sharks of Donsol was an ideal place for them to learn more about the biology and ecology of whale sharks in the Philippines. They further compliment their scientific endeavors by providing their findings to local managers and also contribute as scientific advisors towards best management practices.

In 2016, CTA had a snorkeling trip to Sogod Bay, southern Leyte where we met up with our good friend Gonzalo Araujo, the executive director of LAMAVE. During his presentation, he talked about future projects in the Philippines and mentioned their proposal to study the movements of the whale sharks, in combination with the effort required by the local tour operators (in terms of time spent and distance traveled) to find whale sharks for their guests in Donsol. Their approach was elegant (as most good studies are); they wanted to secure 33 GPS trackers and place them on the 33 licensed tour boats that bring guests out to swim with the whale sharks. This would allow them to track the time spent and distance traveled for each boat and also get an idea of where whale sharks were spending their time during the day. At the time, the proposed research was in the funding stages and that’s where we came in :-)!

Given our close connectivity to LAMAVE, the focus subjects, and the community of Donsol, as well as our desire to see best management practices based on solid science, this was a no-brainer for us. We immediately decided to fund their work and helped them purchase the needed GPS trackers. The project is currently moving forward with great zest and we look forward to seeing the results. We are proud to support LAMAVE and their goals of increasing knowledge through scientific research, and are confident that it will lead to best management practices so that both the whale sharks and local stakeholders have a successful relationship for years to come.

Please click here to learn more about LAMAVE and how you can donate to their organization. In most cases, donations directly support local Filipino students and researchers in their endeavors to protect and conserve populations of large marine vertebrates in the Philippines.

Please also keep an eye out for our special Philippines snorkeling tour in 2020!