MANILA, Philippines – The girl in the controversial “whale shark in surfboard” photo may have admitted that the incident took place in Boljoon, Cebu, but it seems that nearby Oslob town is not yet off the hook.
Marine biologists in Oslob said whale sharks in the area have fresh wounds, which could have been obtained through close contact with boatmen and tourists.
They also noted how some policies on whale shark watching are not followed in the area, and asked government agencies to do their part in protecting the marine animals, which are locally called butanding.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) earlier expressed alarm as some people use whale sharks as surfboards, as seen in a photo that has gone viral on social networking sites.
David David, a researcher at WWF, said the group has been reminding residents in Oslob on how to properly conduct whale shark interactions for tourists, but there are still a number of violations.
Fishermen in Oslob have been feeding whale sharks with baby shrimp for decades, making them rise to the surface to the delight of tourists.
Tourists, however, are barred from feeding or swimming with the whale sharks.
DOT defends girl in whale shark photo
The Department of Tourism (DOT), meanwhile, urged the public to stop criticizing Carelle Listones, the girl who was photographed riding a whale shark.
Director Rowena Montecillo of DOT Region VII said that instead of dishing out negative comments on social networking sites, Filipinos must focus on spreading the word on how to properly interact with whale sharks.
Listones apologized for her actions on Monday after getting flak from Filipino netizens over her photo.
In an interview, she said she was not aware that riding atop whale sharks is not allowed. – With reports from Reno Tallada and Jun Niño, ABS-CBN News