In the village of Tan-awan, on the southern Philippines island of Cebu, whale shark sightings along the shore have become a prime tourist attraction.
It was not always this way.
Giant whale sharks typically swim through warm, tropical waters alone. Within the past couple of years, the gentle sea giants have been drawn to Tan-awan’s coastlines in large numbers by fishermen who hand-feed the sharks with krill.
The practice has created a lucrative business opportunity for local fishing boats that have started whale shark watching tours, but sparked outrage among environmentalists who say the feeding technique is unnatural and could change the animals’ migratory and eating behaviour.
Meanwhile, as many as 300 tourists a day visit the town in hopes of getting an up-close experience with the marine beasts.
travellers come to this tropical location expecting to swim with and feed whale sharks, the biggest fish and shark in the sea.
Conservationists are afraid that the whale sharks' feeding habits will change if local fisherman continue to hand-feed them small shrimp.
There is also growing concern that the sharks are more at risk of being whacked by the propellers of boats when they swim along the shore looking for humans to hand them food..
The fisherman are reluctant to give up the practice of hand-feeding because it has turned into an increasingly popular tourist attraction.
They argue that whale sharks have been spotted around Oslob shores since the 1980s, and that a greater number just means they are becoming more accustomed to the waters.
Whale sharks can be individually identified by the unique patten of spots and strips on their skin, which is comparable to a human fingerprint.
The practice of hand-feeding, however, continues despite the criticism. Growing public opposition has reduced the number of visitors, much to the dismay of local businesses.
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