A Case Study on the Whale Sharks of Donsol, Sorsogon, Philippines

A Case Study on the Whale Sharks of Donsol, Sorsogon, Philippines

A Study on the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) Tourism of Donsol, Sorsogon circa 1998 – 2010 Marie Anne L. Mijares 2010 – 36545 Professor Joey Ogatis Communications I Research Paper October 7, 2010 Outline Thesis Statement: The whale shark tourism industry of Donsol, Sorsogon has greatly changed its economic state and its reputation, but the whale shark tourism poses also problems on the fishing industries which is Donsol’s main source of livelihood. I. Donsol, which is located in Sorsogon province, is the home of whale shark tourism and has changed greatly due to their presence. . Donsol is a municipality in Sorsogon City. b. In 1998, the arrival of whale sharks, Donsol has changed from a quiet fishery village to one of the most renowned tourism industries in the world. II. Whale sharks tourism posed a huge change on the economy, culture and reputation of Donsol Sorsogon. a. Due to the increase in the number of tourists, Donsol Sorsogon received titles such as “The Best Animal Encounter in Asia” and this title led to an increase in the number of tourists during the year 2005. b.

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Whale shark tourism helps the overall revenue of the municipality and aids the small-scale fishermen with their daily income. c. The presence of whale shark brought upon the Butanding Festival in Donsol Sorsogon. III. The ecosystem in Donsol Sorsogon is threatened by the overfishing and in turn the whole whale shark tourism is in danger of deteriorating. d. Commercial fishing vessels are getting all the income of the smaller-scale fishing folk which in turn make them venture in to capturing smaller fish. e.

The effect of over-fishing to the normal trends in the ecosystem and how the local government solved this problem. Facts and Figures of Sorsogon City and Donsol’s History of Whale Shark Tourism Sorsogon City, the capital of Sorsogon province, is one of the six Bicol provinces, and is situated in the southernmost tip of Luzon. The city was formed by merging Bacon and Sorsogon towns. It consists of 64 barangays, covering 31,292 hectares of land 37 of which lie along the sea’s coast. It is Bicol’s largest city in terms of land area. Sorsogon City has no distinct dry season.

There is generally rain throughout the entire year; rain is expected 200 days in a year. However, some months will have fewer rains than others. The tropical climate of Sorsogon is largely influenced by two air-stream systems, the northeast monsoon, which prevails from October to May and the southeast monsoon, and occurs from June to September. There is a pronounced high rainfall period from November to January. November is the wettest month, while April and May are the least rainy months. Considered the summer months are the months of March, April and May (sorsogontourism. om). The city is particularly at high risk to tropical cyclones and storm surges, extreme rainfall or flooding, increased precipitation, temperature variability and sea level rise. The origin of its name is the word “Solsogon” or “Susugon” or “to trace the river upstream”, it has been spelled in various ways throughout history. The Spanish explorers got lost upon the discovery of the territory until they reached what is now called Sorsogon Bay. They asked the locals the name of the place and the locals mistook the question as asking for directions.

Thus they were told “Solsogon” or “Susugon”, which meant trace your way following the river upstream, which eventually became the name of the town. The city was overrun by Japanese Imperial Forces in 1942 but was liberated in 1945. Sorsogon officially became a city under the Philippine Republic on August 16, 2000 (sorsogontourism). The population of Sorsogon city based on the 2007 census is 151,454 and has an average growth rate of 1. 78%. It is one of the most populous cities in the Bicol region. 95% of its citizens are Roman Catholics.

It has 72 elementary schools consisting of public and private, 20 secondary schools and 15 tertiary schools. Sorsogon’s places of interest and usual hot spots for tourists include, Bucalbucalan spring, Tolongapo beach, Danao lake, Paroja Hill and Grotto, Sorsogon bay walk, Bacon beach, Rempelas, Prieto Diaz and Donsol. Donsol is a 1st class municipality in Sorsogon City, and is a popular summer get away as well as tourist spot, well known for the whale sharks that visit its coasts. Located at the northwestern part of Sorsogon Province and marks the provincial boundary on the northwest, adjoining the province of Albay.

According to the 2007 census, it has a population of 39,995 people in 7,503 households with 51 barangays, 11 of which are situated in the coastal areas of the municipality. Donsol, Sorsogon once had a thriving shipping industry – late 1800 to early 1900 where ships travelled to Manila and Back. Donsol was a simple fishing village. But since 1998 the first actual interaction with the whale sharks, led by Romir Aglugub – a PADI diving instructor, and discovering these creatures were not like the typical sharks tourists from different parts of the world flooded to see these creatures.

Donsol was not prepared for that arrival of tourists. The Donsol Municipal Tourism Council, a small local body composed mainly of the barangay leader and some members of the parish was created with assistance from the Sorsogon Provincial Tourism Council. The council managed and received the developing tourism. Due to the lack of training hospitality industry and management concerns, the influx of tourists in 1998 overwhelmed the tourism council.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) provided technical assistance and Donsol’s whale shark tourism started with their arrival. The council had set up the tourism management system, performed functions such as accreditation, collection of fees and imposition of fines and penalties (Donsol, Pine). The council adapted the WWF guidelines for protecting sharks. Due to the lack of time and training, accidents occurred during the first year of whale shark tourism, such as boats crowding a whale shark and snorkelers being ran over by boats.

By February 1999, the management system appeared to be in order with the help of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement the Butanding Ecotourism Development Project, a six month grant that guided and aided in further understanding of management planning, establishment of visitor management systems, whale shark inter action protocol, capacity building for local guides for tour services and the production of environmental education materials for the nationwide campaign on whale shark protection. Evidently, the unskilled and unprepared management transformed on the opening season on the following year, February 1999.

They Butanding interaction Officers to assist each group of people; they sever as the life guards as well as the tour guides. A resort opened and accommodated tourists and the 6-month rigorous-training-acquired skills were put into action by the community. When the citizens and were able to adapt to the influx, tourist interaction and accommodation, the management role of the council ceased to exist since 2000 and the municipal government has taken charge of whale shark interaction services. Presently, Donsol is a world-class tourist destination and is dubbed as “The Whale Shark Capital of the World”.

Whale Shark Tourism and How it Revolutionized Donsol’s Economy, Culture and Reputation Whale sharks in unknown numbers have continued to visit the coast of Donsol Sorsogon to feed on the unusually high number of planktons at the bay. These creatures usually appear during the months of March and April. Whale sharks can grow up to 20 meters long and weigh up to 34 tons makes it the biggest fish in the world. Whale sharks are nomadic animals, whose habitat is defined by the ecological boarders of tropical and warm temperate waters.

Which makes Donsol a perfect whale shark sanctuary during the summer season. Being able to see up close creatures as large as buses and not feeling any hint of fear, but instead instill awe has captivated the foreigners to experience and re-experience the moment. Groups from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines make up the largest groups of visitors. With all the tourists it was getting, Donsol was officially recognized as an important tourism destination in 2003 after receiving a special Kalakbay award for its ecotourism.

The Department of Tourism and the PCVC entitles this award to individuals and industries which have distinguished themselves in their respective fields in tourism. Since this incident, Donsol has been in the 13 priority ecotourism sites of the Department of Tourism that contributes to continuing the increase in tourism arrivals. Also, by the end of 2004, Time Magazine named the whale shark interaction in Donsol as the “Best Animal Encounter” in its “Best of Asia” special report. This established Donsol as an important tourism destination for not only local but also international markets.

After this exposure to the world, more people went to witness the whale sharks at Donsol, as seen from the graph below. A graph on the visitor arrivals in Donsol, taken from The Case Study presented by Ruel Pine A graph on the Revenues from Donsol whale shark inter actions, taken from The Case Study presented by Ruel Pine With the data presented at the first graph from, 2002 to 2005, the arrival of tourists posted an increase of 110%vannually. The number of foreign visitors increased at an annual rate of 43%.

Since the arrival of the whale sharks on 1998, Donsol has now developed seven resorts and one hotel. Amor, the pioneer resort which has been there since 1998, Woodland 2001, Vitton 2006, Shoreline 2007, Casa Bianca 2007, Giddy’s Place (hotel 2009) Elgysis 2009 and the latest AGM 2010. They all offer various services, rooms, cottages, restaurants, function halls and pools. According to the Donsol Municipal Treasury, the most successful among the resorts is Elgysis with an annual gross sale of Php 2,200,000.

The increase in the number of visitors greatly increased the municipality’s revenue. The combined revenues of the local government during 2002 accumulated to Php 1,003,055 which increased to almost a fivefold to Php 4,612,500 by 2005. Boat rental comprised a large part of it. Compared to the income of whale shark tourism in Donsol Sorsogon and the operations in Ningaloo, Australia, Donsol is still needs to improve its revenues. Donsol’s operations lasts for almost half a year but only generates 10% of what Ningaloo can make in two months.

While compared to the operations in Belize in Central America it generates 20% of what Belieze made in six weeks. Donsol is still a long shot away but with the help of the government and the expertise of project coordinators, in a few years Donsol can earn as much as these two (Donsol, Pine). It is becoming evident that the fishery sector could no longer support the number of people depending on it for income and livelihood. But thankfully because of the tourism, former full-time fisher men now have a secondary job posting as BIOs every whale shark season, saving their families from possible hunger.

The salary given for a BIO, Php 475 happens to be larger than their daily income with fishing. Thus tourism lessens the losses acquired by small-scale fishermen due to commercial fisheries. The whale sharks also imparted a large contribution on the culture of Donsol. A Butanding Festival was created in honor of the creatures that is held annually. During this festival the 11 coastal barangays compete for the best life size replica of whale sharks A street parade is held where children participating in the festival dress up like the black and white spotted creatures.

Coastal Resource Management: Hazards of Coexisting Industries and the Actions taken Although whale shark tourism boosted Donsol’s economy and changed the life of its citizens, problems like monitoring the balance of the ecosystem, with the problem of fishing conflicting and whale shark pouching still occur. The link among fishing grounds and whale shark sighting areas have a functional tropic interrelationship, the reason is food abundance. If this ecosystem is destroyed the two major life sustaining means of Donsol will be hindered.

Whether it be unregulated tourism or persistence of commercial fishing, it is only logical that without food the migratory paths of whale sharks would shift. WWF-Philippines was worried of the deterioration of the ecosystem of the whale sharks so they contracted Professor Victor Soliman of the Bicol University College of Fisheries, to conduct a one-year (2004 to 2005) study to determine the fishing patterns in Donsol. The result revealed patterns of over-fishing (Donsol, Pine). Over-fishing cannot be prevented; close to 3000 people in Donsol depend on ishing for their daily food and means of income. Fishermen use many types of fishing equipments, the most dominant the gill nets for catching small fishes. Based on Soliman’s study the annual harvest of the fishing industry 1,350. 89 metric tons and the annual production is valued at Php 54 million, making this industry almost eight times larger than whale shark tourism, making the industry almost eight times larger than whale shark tourism. But in a different view, the large commercial fisheries have the upper hand to these numbers compared to the small-scale fisherman.

The estimated total annual yield of large fisheries is ten times greater of what a small-scale fisherman harvests. Small-scale fishermen struggle at the presence of commercial fishing vessels, which have increased their numbers in the past year (Donsol, Pine). The study by Soliman shows that 32. 5% overfished, Fishermen claim that before 1990s their average daily catch ranged from 200 to 50 kilograms but is now reduced to a mere 0 to 50 kilograms at present. Fishing has become a risky job for small-scale fishing folk because of the small or no returns that they get, thus overfishing becomes their option.

After the study was conducted, under the administration of the former mayor Salve Ocaya from 2004 to 2007, the local government took steps to resolve the critical fisheries issue. The local government supported the municipal fisheries ordinance which was also talked over with the different sectors of WWF-Philippines. The ordinance contains the adaptation of the municipal fisheries management plan. The plan covered the management role of MFARMC in marine resource use and budget allocation (Donsol, Pine).

MFARMC and the Municipal Agriculturalist Office conducted the fish monitoring, patrol operations and regulatory measures like licensing and registration. The municipality implemented the whale shark interaction protection protocol to secure the safety of the creatures as well as the customers. The fishing industry and its tourism is linked and it depends on the whale sharks, and wild animals whose migratory patterns are dictated by nature. Their presence is dependent on the abundance of food, and in turn is dependent on the ecological integrity of the ecosystem that supports it.

And this ecosystem is the livelihood of Donsol (Donsol, Pine). In order to maintain this balance this chain, the elements must perform their respective roles, not taking too much and giving just enough in order for the Donsol whale shark tourism to continue for years to come. References Barce, Raul, WWF Project Coordinator. Personal Interview. 24 September 2010. Donsol Municipal Files. (2009) http://www. fukuoka. unhabitat. org/ http://www. sorsogonboard. com/ http://www. sorsogontourism. com/ http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Donsol,_Sorsogon Pedgagosa, Nenita, Tourism Operations Officer I.

Personal Interview. 24 September 2010. Pine, Ruel. Donsol Whale Shark Tourism and Coastal Resource Management , ACase Study. (2007) Appendix The mouth of a whale shark (Rhincodon typus) The bottom half of a whale shark alongside a BIO A BIO swimming alongside a whale shark during the whale shark viewing encounter Butanding Interaction Officers (BIO) surveying the coasts before a day’s work A graph on the visitor arrivals in Donsol, taken from The Case Study presented by Ruel Pine A graph on the Revenues from Donsol whale shark inter actions, taken from The Case Study


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