As promised, after giving BFF the opportunity to voice their issues over the Whale Shark Project at Mombasa’s south coast, here is an initial response by Volker Bassen to counter some of these allegations, with undoubtedly more to follow. Readers can and should make up their mind based on facts and NOT on mere allegations and sentiments.
Regarding the Aljazeera article, it didn’t mention a single benefit (Although James knew about them in detail) and was utterly biased. There is no mention of the estimated 300.000.000Ksh going back into the local community as well as an equal amount of money going into sustainable marine conservation projects over the next 5 years (such as the cashew nut shell oil project) all paid for by this unique PPPC (Private Public Partnership in Conservation) project. Furthermore; the enclosure (note, size does matter, this is not a cage) will serve as a rescue and rehabilitation center for injured marine animals, a first in Africa. The enclosure is the biggest of it’s kind, a 100 times the size of the Georgia aquarium in the US, the world’s largest aquarium keeping 4 whale sharks.This is very important to mention as well.
On another note; we have signed several MoU with different stakeholders such as the University of Nairobi, KMFRI (Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute is on the way, the Ministry of Fisheries have set up the Waa BMU (Beach Management Unit) since they have the legal mandate, the whale shark is a fish that doesn’t have any protection in Kenyan waters. We are planning many joint scientific research projects into whale shark biology and have received many proposals from researchers all over the world.
Regarding us "making up" the recent killings of whale sharks here in Kenya in order to "justify our incarceration of these poor whale sharks", it’s just another example of how people are twisting the truth to fit their need in order to discredit this project. We do have evidence of this or we wouldn’t come up with such allegations, see here; Our point is that the situation is NOT going to get better, rest assured, soon the Chinese are starting construction of the new Lamu port. Once the Chinese find out that there are whale shark fins to be had just 70 km North of Lamu it’s over.
Conservation demands innovation and thinking outside the box, that is what this unique project is about.
We need to showcase these majestic fish the same way we showcase our elephants, rhinos and lions. There is no better way to incite that desire to conserve them "use them or loose them", sad but true.
On a last note: Our whale shark sightings have dropped from 58 whale sharks spotted in 14 days in 2006 to 12 whale sharks spotted in 6 weeks in 2012, from 4,7 sharks per day down to 0,2 whale sharks per day in 2012…
Would be nice if you could somehow mention these above facts as well in the interest of educating your readers.
Here the YouTube videos I told you about, it’s 20 minutes long (in 2 parts) but worth to watch since it’s very informative regarding whale sharks in captivity and breeding them etc etc. &
Here a link to our research into whale shark migration, conclusion = there is no determined migration pattern recognizable of our juvenile male whale sharks (our whale shark population consists of 95 % juvenile male whale sharks, 5-6 meter in length) 100 % stayed in East Africa all year around, the majority didn’t leave our borders. http://whalesharkadventures.org/downloads/EAWST%20Tag%20Results%20Complete%20-%20small.pdf