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Kenya: The whale shark--a gentle giant in danger

It may be the biggest fish in the world, but the whale shark is under a lot of pressure. This gentle giant is a victim of the shark fin industry and even ends up as bycatch from fishermen's nets, among other causes. Still, it can contribute so much in terms of community development.

Eco-Sys Action has decided to start a series of projects linking several countries where whale sharks are known to migrate.

The first project focuses on the Diani Beach area along the Kenyan coast where the whale shark population has been steadily increasing in recent years and needs more protection now more than ever.

Whale sharks are remarkable ambassadors of the oceans. But they may become an easy target or a symbol of development given the way they are perceived by local fishermen and stakeholders.

Eco-Sys Action is teaming up with the East African Whale Shark Trust (EAWT) in order to show the community how they can benefit from this giant of the seas.

While EAWT concentrates on monitoring, tagging, and satellite tracking, Eco-Sys Action is studying the possible steps that can be taken in order to involve the locals in protecting and benefiting from conserving this big fish.

EAWT already works hand in hand with local fishermen on a small-budget scale by educating them about the value of a thriving whale shark population, both to the marine life ecosystem and to the tourist industry. Local fishermen learn how they can benefit personally, from serving as guides to creating handicrafts.

A nice job is also done with local schoolchildren in order to raise awareness about marine treasure cruising nearby.

To support EAWTs activities, Eco-Sys Action aims to
  • help fishermen invest in new, more eco-friendly fishing nets by looking for sustainable solutions and other sources of incomes like handicraft sand options for more micro-businesses
  • raise awareness on possible eco-tourism directly linked to the whale sharks similar to what is being done in Australia and the Philippines
  • show that whale sharks benefit the community by helping local children in terms of education and health care
  • organize sponsored beach cleaning
The main goal is to bring solutions that enable self-financing on a medium- to long-term basis without making people dependent on the local community, helping them instead to develop their own strength and wealth.

Raising local living standards, enabling higher kids' education, and improving kids' health as a result of protecting the whale sharks here is our vision!

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