It is not the king of the ocean, but the Whale Shark is certainly one of the most majestic mammals on earth and it can be seen on the Mexican Caribbean; but before you ready your suitcase you should know that it is an endangered species, so there are some rules you must abide if you’re planning to dive with it.
First let’s clear something up, the whale shark is not a whale; in fact it is a fish, the biggest of its kind. Second, while they generally roam the ocean alone, they get together when it is feeding season, that’s why it can be observed off the coast of Holbox and Isla Mujeres, where the water is warm and they can find their favorite meal, plankton.
Because of this, the watching of the Whale Shark is one of the top tours in summer time, so much that the area has been packed with a ratio greater than one boat per whale shark. That’s a lot of pressure for them and their ecosystem.
So this year Mexican authorities like the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Conanp) has taken some measures, for example, they won’t give more than 160 licenses to service providers working on the Whale Shark’s Reserve and 120 licenses on the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve.
“We have suggested a day of rest for the Shark and if there are few sharks on the sea, we recommend do not get into the water, only observation from the boat, but mainly we’re telling providers not to ensure or guarantee visitors the swimming with Whale Shark”, said Ricardo Gomez Lozano, Conanp’s Regional director for the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexican Caribbean.
But taking care of this species is not an exclusive duty of the government, it concerns everyone, both locals and tourists.
How can you help? Before you hire the tour, ask if they’re authorized to provide it -this is also for your own safety-. If you have doubts, you can go to the regional offices of the Conanp and check the list of the verified service providers.