Holbox, Isla Mujeres & Chiquila: Whale Shark, the friendly giant

Tania Escobar Series, Voces del Mar

A group of fishermen became ecotourism guides and guardians of the marine giant that provides them with their livelihood.

Fishing communities from Isla Mujeres, Chiquila and Holbox, north of Quintana Roo, experienced an unprecedented transition into ecotourism. The high productivity of plankton in the cold waters of the area attracts many species, including whale sharks, the world’s largest fish. Between May and September, this enormous visitor comes to form aggregations made up of hundreds of individuals.

Intrigued by their friendly temperament, fishermen became tour guides, attending training workshops sponsored by the Yum Balam and Whale Shark Reserves.Together with biologists and environmental authorities, they established a code of conduct for sighting and swimming activities, in order to avoid disturbing this majestic creature.

Recently, however, indiscriminate granting of permits to vessels and untrained operators has resulted in excessive harassment of the species, endangering the whale shark. The fishermen that initiated this activity seek to ensure respect for this species, and to implement a management plan that regulates activities in the region.