Whale shark numbers increase by 80% in Mafia Island Tanzania
Whale sharks are social and calm if not disturbed or scared. They are not predators. They pose a tourism potential as they can swim alongside people. Whale shark sighting is a major tourism attraction in Mafia Island and the peak sighting season is October-March, but also sightings can be observed throughout the year. Research shows up to 8 sightings can be recorded in a day by either viewing or swimming. Whale sharks tourism has emerged to be one of the key sources of income to the community and local authority in Mafia District Whale sharks are protected and are listed in the IUCN red list. Their vulnerability is mainly due to slow growth where they become mature at the age of 30 years, and therefore if not well managed they may become extinct.
WWF in collaboration with the Government Authorities recognize the importance of effective management of this species and joint measures are being promoted to safeguard the whale sharks of Tanzania. Since early 2012 WWF facilitated awareness campaigns to the stakeholders about the importance of coordinating management of whale sharks in Mafia. This included fishers, boat riders, tour operators, tour guides, district authorities, hoteliers and other investors on the island. This resulted into development of whale shark management strategy and the code of conduct for whale sharks.
Further actions are needed to advance management and monitoring of whale sharks including implementation of the management strategy.
By the Marine Team - TCO