Whale sharks in Indonesia were in the spotlight at the 2019 International Whale Shark Conference (IWSC) held in Exmouth, Western Australia, in late May.
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world and much of its behavior is still a mystery because only a few specimens are known. However, this species is endangered based on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
The conference, held for the fifth time and attended by 130 participants from 21 countries, aims to gather all parties around the world to share information on the ecological and biological aspects of the whale shark and apply it to conservation efforts.
There were eight topics regarding whale sharks in Indonesia presented at the conference. This caught the attention of various participants from around the world such as whale shark researchers, conservationists and practitioners in the field of natural resource management and tourism.
The eight topics related to whale sharks in Indonesia included the economic potential of community-based whale shark tourism in Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara, presented by Maulita Sari Hani from Conservation International (CI); and the research and conservation of whale sharks in Indonesia by Mark Erdmann (CI). Opportunities and challenges for the development of whale shark tourism in Gorontalo by Asril Djunaidi, a doctoral student from Hasanudin University, was also discussed.
Additionally, comparisons of whale shark movements in three Indonesian locations were conducted by Abraham Sianipar (CI). The vertical movement and diving patterns of whale sharks in West Papua were also analyzed by Megan Meyers, a doctoral student from the University of Western Australia. Finally, health assessments of whale sharks in Cendrawasih Bay were done by Alistair Dove from the Georgia Aquarium.
“We were very happy and surprised by quite a number of topics from Indonesia at this conference. We hope that all participants present can continue to help and learn from each other, especially regarding sustainable tourism,” 2019 IWSC secretary Dani Rob said in a statement.
This interest was also conveyed by Gonzalo Araujo, a participant from the Philippines.
“I am very pleased to see various stakeholders in Indonesia looking at opportunities and building sustainable whale shark tourism practices.”