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July Meeting: Whale Sharks - sustainable dive tourism

Wednesday Jul 10 7:45 pm

Duration: 1.5 hrs

Alternative livelihood projects are criticised as having minimal effects on biodiversity conservation. Oslob Whale Sharks, a community-based dive tourism business in the Philippines, is a successful alternative livelihoods project. Dive tourism is often cited for its capacity to conserve coral reef resources by supporting sustainable integrated coastal management, an accepted framework for conserving in the tropics, yet its contribution to this goal is poorly understood.

Here, we examine how Oslob Whale Sharks links livelihoods to management and biodiversity conservation by contributing to sustainable integrated coastal management. Using key stakeholder interviews with fishers, their community, local government and politicians, we found that Oslob Whale Sharks contributes to all nine factors required. Income from Oslob Whale Sharks provides livelihoods, finance for five marine reserves and enhanced law enforcement.

Local authorities and fishers report their perception that whale sharks are protected from poaching and finning, and destructive fishing is decreased, while fish abundance, pelagic fish species and catch have increased. A group of the world’s poorest fishers have succeeded in using sustainable integrated coastal management to link livelihoods with management and perceived improvements in biodiversity conservation, becoming arguably, the most successful marine alternative livelihoods project in the world.

Our findings further suggest that because there is little evidence that this type of tourism has negative impacts on the biology of whale sharks, community-based dive tourism can be a mechanism for delivery of sustainable integrated coastal management.

Judi Lowe is an Australian PhD candidate with Southern Cross University. Judi is a social scientist researching the impact of dive tourism on conserving coral reefs and livelihoods for local fishermen. Before commencing her PhD, Judi practiced as an international lawyer specialising in fisheries law enforcement and climate change with the Australian Government. Judi is a Certified Practicing Accountant, a PADI scuba instructor and a commercial coxswain. Judi’s research has been awarded at the highest levels of coral reef science, winning Best PhD Student Presentation from around 500 postgraduate presentations at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium in Hawaii in 2016.

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CDU Casuarina, Room BLUE 3.1.12

Long: 130.871384 Lat: -12.371530