LOCAL DIVERS RAISE CONCERN ON WHALE SHARK RESEARCH PROGRAMME

Local divers have raised concerns about a whale shark research programme being conducted in the Maldives by a UK charity. The divers say tagging of whale sharks in a Marine Protected Area near Maamigili island in South Ari Atoll – and an aggregation site for whale sharks – is causing whale sharks to abandon the area.

A local diver with 10 years experience of diving in the area told Bluepeace that whale sharks were spotted throughout the year at the site, but are hardly seen anymore because of the tagging.

The charity named ‘Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme’ (MWSRP) has been conducting research in the Maldives since 2006. According to the programme’s website the tagging project was launched in 2008.

MWSRP, on the other hand, has raised concerns about unregulated diving boats visiting the Marine Protected Area. In the programme’s website MWSRP wrote on 3 January 2010 that whale sharks are back in the South Ari Atoll but were facing threats from unregulated tourism.

“Unfortunately the reef is also busier than ever with the unregulated tourism that flocks to the whale shark ‘Hotspot’. Since the recent designation of the area as the largest MPA in the Maldives, nothing has changed, in fact it has inevitably become more busy, increasing habitat disturbance as a major threat to the animals. The tour industry have not been made aware of the rules or regulations within the MPA and boats (sometimes 10 at a time) consistently converge on any shark that is spotted. So the madness is set to continue until such times as the government makes the necessary communications with the stakeholders.”

The research team, which is receiving assistance from the tourist resort Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, also takes tourists staying at the resort to the whale shark aggregation site, according to Easier Travel.

“The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island will once again provide support by giving the team accommodation on a local island, supplies, as well as diving equipment and the use of their boats. Guests at the resort will also be able to take part in the research by accompanying the team on their excursions to study the whale sharks, taking samples and measurements and assisting the team with their conservation work.”

MWSRP’s website says it has been in touch with the government of the Maldives and the local community to develop the Marine Protected Area.

“The year 2009 has seen the successful development of South Ari Atoll’s MPA, which is on its way to becoming the first collaboratively managed and regulated, revenue generating MPA in the Maldives, ensuring the local community benefits from their natural resources whilst making tourism more sustainable. Resorts are already committing to sponsoring the initiative following consultations with the MWSRP.”

Local divers are having a different opinion. They believe the tagging of whale sharks is driving the sharks away. They also raise questions about the methodology used in tagging and claim the use of spear guns by the research team is harming the whale sharks. In addition, local divers raise their concern that the authorities are not regulating the research.

A number of divers working on liveaboards, which take foreign tourists to the whale shark aggregation site, are disappointed with the research team conducting the research at the site during the peak tourist season. They claim that it is detrimental to their business as most of their clients come to the Maldives with the hope of spotting whale sharks. The peak tourist season also coincides with the arrival of North-east monsoon which brings more plankton to the area and attracts whale sharks. However, divers claim the number of whale sharks spotted in the area is significantly less this season. One prominent diver told Bluepeace that divers were not opposed to research in general, but were not happy with the research being carried out inside the Marine Protected Area.

Divers Association of Maldives is planning to raise the concerns of Maldivian divers with the relevant government authorities. Zoona Naseem, the President of DAM, told Bluepeace that the organisation was not opposed to whale shark research but their main concerns were the methodology used in tagging; lack of government regulation and monitoring of the research; and the concerns being raised by the divers that the number of whale sharks frequenting the Marine Protected Area is decreasing.

Maldivian divers also question whether the communities in South Ari Atoll have received any benefits from the research programme. They say MWSRP has not consulted the divers in the area and does not involve Maldivians in the research.

58 Comments »

  1. Verena said,

    January 18, 2010 @ 9:19 am

    Both sides have to be regulated: are experts tagging the sharks? I am not aware of the methodology they use. We definitely need regulations on whale shark research!!!

    However, the number of divers is also too much. I absolutely agree that there should not be more than 12-13 snorkelers (even this is a lot!) around the sharks.
    The diving industry, on the one hand, is beneficial to our environment (charge a fee to dive in the MPA!!!, use the money for protection), on the other hand it destroys our country.

    I think, everyone who has gone on a dive with 10, 12 divers – regardless of their “experience” – will be able to sing a song about the destruction of the reefs by divers. The instructors will only give a briefing, but will never say anything to advise their customers – since they are their income.

    A critical situation, I would say! Economy meets Ecology…

  2. J Hamilton said,

    January 18, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

    These claims are totally misguided and unsubstantiated. Anyone who knows anything about whaleshark ecology and migration should really know better than to believe what has been written here. The research carried out by the MWSRP is led by Dr Stewart the world’s leading authority on tagging. Maybe do a bit of research before printing rubbish like this.

  3. Verena said,

    January 19, 2010 @ 10:02 am

    So the tagging is being done by a professional…
    The only way we can learn about whale sharks, especially about their migration behaviour, is through research.
    I am sure the MWSRP will have collected some interesting data on migration by now.

  4. lisa allison cruise director in the maldives said,

    January 19, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

    we welcome the MWST on board our vessel before we enter the maamigili region, they give a very good presentation and tell our guests how to interact with the whalesharks to get maximum time in the water. the guests really enjoy this as they can see a professional approach rather than the carnage that unfolds when we turn the corner into maamigili.

    i have seen first hand on how they conduct their research and tagged sharks are seen again on the same day and can say catagorically that shark numbers havent dropped, the only thing that has dropped is quality time with the animals and this is due to uneducated uncaring dive operators allowing their guests to jump on top of the sharks and allowing their guests to molest the animals, evidence of people touching and holding on to the tail. many boats coming in too fast, too close and evidence of boat strikes on the sharks themselves. the only thing the operators are interested in are dollars not the protection of the animals . Remember the whale sharks are protected. that means protected from humans not anything else.

    the whaleshark trust people have world renowned scientists on their team i fully support them. we only need regulation of the liveaboards and resorts on how they behave only this will have a positive affect.

  5. Roman said,

    January 19, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

    I am currently working for a dive center in South Ari Atoll. I have Msc. in Biology and 2 years experience working in National parks.
    Firstly: MWSRP members are not diving with sharks they are strictly snorkeling. They do not tag sharks this year, as far as my knowledge goes and as I have been told by them plus they do not have permission for this activity.
    Concerning who scares sharks away. It is easy to hit NGO as usually volunteers have very small leverage power.
    Have ‘local divers’ been really interested in sustainable use of the area, I think, they should be most concerned on how big impact do have liveaboards, divers boats and snorkeling boats to sharks.
    Nowhere up there is mentioned that well over half of the whale sharks you meet in that area had been hit by the boat and had chopped fins away or been deeply scared on the body in the past- well how does that compare with tagging?
    Now I do not want to undermine the experience of the ‘local diver’. Him experiencing decline in abundance of whale shark spotting might be true. But how is it with total number of the divers and snorkelers entering this area, did it not rise? Does the environment not change? What can be a real reason for this change, one can hardly find out without proper research ….
    So where does he find the argument for his claim? Maybe just in his cowardice as to blame the weakest is the easiest….

  6. jenifer kidson said,

    January 19, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

    This arcticle is rubbish…I know my friend is doing a good job and that she would never be involved in anything that would harm these beautiful animals!

  7. Oli said,

    January 19, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

    Who to believe?! Scientists doing research for a charity or local dive companies who are there purely for exploitational purposes. Do these divers have any scientific proof that the tagging scheme is responsible for dwindling whaleshark sightings, or is this just an anecdotal, untested hypothesis?

  8. Ibrahim said,

    January 19, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

    Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme’ (MWSRP) and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island have advertising the Maamigili region for whale shark watching and whale shark sponsorship for US$200 in recent years in major newspapers and websites. These advertisements have been instrumental in attracting more tourists than before for whales watching in this region.

    I find very ironic when MWSRP says that the reef is also busier than ever with the unregulated tourism that flocks to the whale shark ‘Hotspot’.

  9. zoya said,

    January 19, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

    This article is very true reflecting to both sides. Maybe the research program Is led by one of the top researchers in the world . However we have seen how they tag and for one thing I find odd how they do it. I wonder how often does this so call world leading researcher monitors and be on field while his crew tag the magnificent animal. Big names like CONRAD doesn’t mean anything . They are equally greedy when it comes to money. and this is just one tactic they have to earn money and promote and publish it expose it and flock as much as boat traffic. we do understand and have seen how there projects have taken place and we have every right to label them who would not give a damn about, or assisting this tag project is at the best intrest for sustaining this tourism at this area. its just loads of money .

    Yes ofcuz there is so many operators and boats flocking around to get lucky and see the big animal. After all its one of the biggest dream for divers to see whale shark. I do not understand some here pointing finger at our local community divers. I have been on this field for more then 20 years now and I have seen enough nonsense from careless dive guides from every corner of the world. Its not just Maldivian guides. Its just lack of love and passion for our underwater world.

    Its our duty to discipline ourselves if we want to sustain this tourism. We have to push the button even if its the client who is crossing the line. We have to penalty any crazy diver who touches whales sharks or jump on top of it . For one thing I know is I don’t take this kind of craziness under my guidance.

    we need to make our industry from liveaboard to resort to dive guides to dive centers aware and educate them regarding this fragile eco system and how it works. it does not only concern jsut for whale shark. when it comes to reef or jus other fishes it applies. tell me how many resorts know how there gabbage is disposed and how some times there gabage gets dump on top of the next near by reef .

    how many resort have been modified dredge to make artificial beach or make resort landscape bigger and destroy there house reef. it seems they think they are just messing with there own property but that effects to more then these stake holders can imagine.

    we need to sustain whale sharks to be apearing travelling and chilling at there points. we needs to see Mantas we need coral growth we need sharks we need to embrace our 2 worlds above and below !

  10. Sharon Bott said,

    January 20, 2010 @ 12:50 am

    First and foremost, the fact that there is any debate concerning the intention of the research programme is ludicrous. How can it be substantiated to frequently allow tourists to dive down and around wild animals in their habitats, interfering with biodiversity and ecology? This is purely for profit; for no benefit to the future conservation of the whale sharks whatsoever.
    Furthermore, the aim of the MWSRP is to monitor the sharks; researching their numbers with the aim of sustainability, not profit. Perhaps ask how much these tourist boats make in a day?
    The majority of workers for the MWSRP are working on a purely voluntary basis, fuelled by a passion for sustaining wildlife in an incredible area of outstanding natural beauty. If dive groups continue to take tourists out to manhandle wild animals for an excellent “holiday snap” then they should be looking to themselves for blame when they realise that numbers of whale sharks are dwindling, if in fact this is even the case.
    Finally, I’d like to question this so called “tourist season”. As a teacher myself, there is no question that the global tourist seasons generally match American and European school holidays. Consequently, how is it possible to make accusations that the current tourist “peak period” has been affected when the peak season has not even begun for 2010.
    There needs to be figures, categorical evidence, statistics and data for all of these claims against the MWSRP. Otherwise they are without foundation and wholly incorrect, highlighting the incompetence and ignorance of those who make the claims.

  11. R Lloyd-Williams said,

    January 20, 2010 @ 4:16 am

    The above article has left me feeling furious and frustrated both at the author for his lack of research and his totally biased so-called journalism, and at the ‘experienced diver’ for starting such a pointless, fact-free rumour. The icing on the cake being that this individual (who is so sure in his convictions he was too scared to give his name!) works on a liveaboard and then has the audacity to blame a small research vessel for him not seeing any sharks.
    Having spent a bit of time near Maamagili I have witnessed these giant liveaboards trawling along just outside the reef, often with their dhoni just inside them over the reef and their speed boats and/or jet-skis inside that motoring over the supposed Marine Protected Area. The noise from this ‘fleet’ of vessels moving up the reef is deafening underwater so I’m not at all surprised that this individual rarely sees a shark!
    One person’s opinion that numbers of whale sharks are down does not necessarily mean that they are. If the author needed to find out how this year compared to previous years he could have asked the one group who knew for sure…the MWSRP!!
    How the author felt he could write a balanced article without actually talking to the MWSRP is beyond me. He clearly went on the website, as demonstrated by the copied quotes, where he no doubt would have seen obvious contact details to the MWSRP. This is beyond lazy when a direct contact to the charity he was writing about was available, yet it was felt that this wasn’t required. I’m afraid this suggests he set out to write a completely biased article from the off.
    It has also been pointed out above that the MWSRP are not tagging this year. It seems strange that, if tagging is the problem, the one year no tagging occurs this diver sees fewer sharks. Could it be that another variable is responsible?!
    Added to which it is a tiny minority of sharks that have been tagged so why would this affect the abundance of the entire population? The fact that sharks with tags have been re-seen again and again also does no favours to this diver’s wild accusations and goes some way to completely discrediting his unfounded theory.
    The irony of the author’s other ‘prominent diver’ (still no names?) not wanting research to be ‘carried out inside the MPA’ is that the MPA exists in no small part thanks to the MWSRP establishing the boundaries, preparing the encounter guidelines, and talking to local islanders about their opinions on the proposal before presenting it to the Maldivian government. Which brings me on to my final point.
    The final paragraph of this nonsense reads ‘Maldivian divers also question whether the communities in South Ari Atoll have received any benefits from the research programme. They say MWSRP has not consulted the divers in the area and does not involve Maldivians in the research.’ This could not be further from the truth. I know for a fact that a major part of the MWSRP is about involving local communities and dive centres. They have done talks in local schools as well as presentations to guests at resorts in the region of the MPA. They have also taken local school children out on whale shark watching excursions. If the author can be bothered to call round all the resort dive centres in the area I would be extremely surprised if any had not been approached by the MWSRP as highlighted by the lady above’s comment about the MWSRP doing a ‘very good presentation’ to the guests on a liveaboard.
    Knowing how hard these volunteers work for no return just to try and do good on behalf of the whale sharks and the Maldivian people I find it very upsetting for them then to be attacked by an appallingly ignorant piece by Bluepeace, who claim to be ‘made up of concerned individuals who wish to ensure that the natural environment is used wisely and continues to be available for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.’ I’m afraid in this case the author should be very ashamed of themselves.
    The real tragedy is that all these groups want the same thing i.e. to protect and conserve the whale sharks. If they would just all pull in the same direction and help rather than hinder the efforts of the MWSRP then I’m sure these beautiful creatures will continue to return to the Maldives for a very long time.
    I am now very much looking forward to Bluepeace writing a follow up article which will hopefully talk to the MWSRP and help inform people what it is they do and how the public can help support the good work the MWSRP team is doing.
    And an apology from the author might not be a bad idea…

  12. Saddan Hussein said,

    January 21, 2010 @ 11:27 am

    MWSRP are doing important work and they love Maldives! They come to my school at Dhigurah all times and take us out on water to show us sharks and give us education.

  13. Anne Robinson said,

    January 21, 2010 @ 11:39 am

    I can not believe that the MWSRP are in the firing line for the work they are doing in the Maldives. I was lucky enough to meet these guys last year. You should all know that the guys give up their time and have invested their own money into the Maldives because they love the people, the country and the marine life.
    The work they do is imperative to the conservation of the maldives’ whale sharks.
    You should take the time out to speak with them before you judge them and ask them if you can join them for a day.

  14. Umarube said,

    January 21, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

    These beautiful creatures have been there all the time without MWSRP or Bluepeace. In June 1995, whale shark is protected by law and hardly anyone fish or kill them. One of my concerns is that MWSRP in collaboration with some resorts and travelling agencies are advertising in big time for raise fund for MWSRP, and this is bringing extra people and to watch whale sharks in Maamigli area, and making the area busier. In am sure MWSRP is quite aware, that there is no strict motoring mechanism in place by the government of the Maldives. MWSRP is partly blamed for overcrowding of the marine protected in Ari Atoll.

    The Government of the Maldives should declare Maamigili and Hanifaru bay as strict nature parks, and limit access and charge a fee, so that there would be funds for government conservation authority to employ park wardens for monitoring and research.

  15. lisa allison cruise director in the maldives said,

    January 21, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

    you are dead right about limited access and more control umarube, this is partly what the guys mwwrp, are working with the government to achieve, but it will take time to do this, we need commitment from you, me everybody to pull together and have some order. the mwsrp are not responsible for the extra tourism, more new boats are being built every year, resorts are increasing their beds and this is not only down to the whaleshark. the maldives is simply a fabulous place to visit more people want to visit and the maldivian tourism is a very important part of the economy, we can sort all this out eventually and see a more professional approach by all when visiting the areas. if you see the mwsrp in the area go and talk to them they are great guys who love the maldives and its people.

  16. Dr. Robert McBride said,

    January 22, 2010 @ 4:22 am

    So in summery the scientists who have been doing research and seeking protection for these animals are being criticised by a commercial tour operators… am I really supposed to take this seriously?

  17. Aalhey said,

    January 22, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

    The biggest fish in the world, the Whale Shark is by far the most popular animal in the Maldivian waters. This Shark is one of the gentlest creatures you can hope to encounter underwater. Enormous, they grow to about 40 feet long and are characterized by their grey body, covered with white spots. The best thing about the Whale Shark is that you don’t even have to be a scuba diver to see one. You can get up close with this giant just by snorkeling. MALDIVES government PLEZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ think about…..AND SAVE whale shark…..and the areas whale shark living too…..THINK ABOUT IT

  18. D.Brown said,

    January 23, 2010 @ 12:05 am

    It’s funny that such professionals are having trouble communicating with each other. Just trying to solve whatever they have in between by talking rubbish. Grow-up people and try to solve it by sitting together and try to understand both sides of it. Don’t always think that you are or they are right. Sometimes it could be both who are right. All depends how you look at it.

    Being in another country and making enemies won’t help you in any way.
    All time talking how good you are wont help either.

    Looks like a bunch of Amateurs trying to do a research for their field project. Just my opinion.
    Others might think even less of you. Anyway I guess I would become one of you if I continue this for too long.

  19. Guy Stevens said,

    January 23, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    It seems to me that those who seek to blame, threaten and accuse the MWSRP of wrong doing do so because in their mind the only reason why anyone would seek to undertake a conservation, research and educational programme on whale sharks in the Maldives would do so for personal monetary gain or recognition. For these people whale sharks represent $$$$ and nothing more! So to them, the concept that people, like the MWSRP, would devote their time, money and lives to trying to protect these amazing animals for nothing more than altruistic reasons is an alien concept and one which they find hard to grasp.

    The is unfortunately a problem which I have myself faced on many occasions having spend the last 5 years of my life trying to protect and conserve the manta rays of the Maldives.

    Balancing the needs of the Maldivians and this country’s natural resources, like the whale sharks, is not an easy task. But it is one which I, the MWSRP Team and many other dedicated people in this amazing country are trying to help work towards on a daily basis. I therefore find it disappointing and extremely frustrating that we constantly have to justify and defend our actions, especially when little or no effort is ever made to actually look at the facts at hand before wild and unsubstantiated accusations are thrown, or indeed in this case knives pointed and ignorant articles written.

    One person commented that, if we all want the same thing; to protect and preserve the marine life of the Maldives, surely these differences of opinion can be overcome with better communication, education and transparency on all sides. I completely agree and this website is a great tool for facilitating these objectives, for which I praise its creators. However, like many which have read this latest article, I feel disappointed at the lack of effort to fairly evaluate and represent both sides of the argument. I would urge those who have any concerns to simply send an email and look at the facts, after all, this is what science deals in. Hard facts are what the Maldivian Government needs if it is to effectively manage and conserve the natural heritage of this country. If anyone would like to know more about my research, please feel free send me an email me at mantarayproject@hotmail.com or visit the projects website at http://www.maldivianmantas.com.

    And one final note: A few people have accused the MWSRP of seeking to profit from tourism, adding to the overcrowding and the problem at Maamigili. But this really misses the point. Tourism does not have to be bad, and realistically the selfish greed of human nature dictates that tourism, and the money it brings, is probably the only thing which will ultimately save the whale sharks and the other charismatic mega fauna in the Maldives. Economically these animals will be worth ($$$) saving. And there is nothing wrong with benefiting from tourism; the problem is the effective management of tourism, something which I and the MWSRP have devoted much of our time to achieving. That is why we have tried so hard to gain marine protective status for these key manta and whale shark areas in the Maldives (Hanifaru, Maamigili, etc). And this is why we are trying hard to work with the Maldivian Government and local stakeholders and communities to implement effective management practices for these special sites in the future.

    The Maldives and Maldivians need tourism, the manta rays, whale sharks, turtles and reefs all CAN and should benefit from tourism if it’s managed properly. What it does not need is ignorance and selfish greed. As someone once wrote, “The greatest ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about”.

  20. Morgan said,

    January 23, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

    The MWSRP’s own data shows that they are seeing more whale sharks year on year, not fewer. In 2006 it took them on average over 13 hours of searching effort to find a single shark, by 2008 that had dropped to less than 4 hours. Those sharks that have been tagged previously are seen again just as frequently, and in many cases more frequently than those that have not. So it would seem absurd to suggest the MWSRP and the tagging are scaring the sharks away.

    It is perhaps worth considering that when searching for the sharks the MWSRP deliberately avoids sections of the reef and times of the day when there are large numbers of tourist boats around because past experience has suggested that more boats means fewer sharks. So by avoiding large congregations of tourist vessels the MWSRP is reporting seeing more sharks, whereas ‘local diver’, working on one of those vessels reportedly sees fewer- what might that tell us about what the sharks are responding to?

    All of the research the MWSRP has done is published and freely available to the public and civil servants which, unfortunately Umarube, shows that despite the ban, whale shark fishing continues.

    I would strongly support the suggestion that access to the MPA be restricted, a park entrance fee could be charged for tourist vessels to pay for the policing of the park by local people according to guidelines they, the government and responsible tour operators have already agreed upon. This would also give a local financial incentive to protect the sharks and prevent poaching and create new opportunities for the people who actually live on the reef where the sharks are seen.

  21. D.Brown said,

    January 23, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

    Even on the local news website http://www.haveeru.com.mv/nip/ there are a few pictures of people touching and riding a whale shark which is strictly against the law.

    Hey GUY STEVEN. Maybe they are your good friends. Have a close look at the picture. Might even find yourself at the corner.

    The only guys who are touching, playing and harassing the whale shark are talking about protecting them. First you need to get educated and then you can educate the other. It’s so funny that the government lets people like you come and play with our FISH. But it won’t happen anymore.

    I think we have been quite long enough but not anymore

  22. D.Brown said,

    January 23, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

    Let me tell you a little about the SCIENTIST GUY STEVENS.
    He has been doing research in Baa Atoll for some time now. About 2 years ago the government got complaints about GUY STEVENS and his team tagging mantas in front of the guest and while divers are down diving.
    For this reason he LOST HIS research permit. So people like this should never open there big mouth saying they do all things right.
    But after sometime he got the permit back. Should have never given it. People like him are the ones who need better education

  23. Dave said,

    January 23, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

    Sorry to say this Guy Stevens,

    If you’ve been working here for more than 5years, How come we never heard anything positive about what you do in the Maldives. I did a research about you; apparently you are what they call Marine Biologist who is working in Four Seasons Properties in Maldives. I just couldn’t see any public article, interview or speech you made about the support you give to Maldives Protected Areas or Your whale Shark research project, I thought if you are trying to support our poor local community, you have to let that poor local community know how you are going to do it and why?… so I understood that you started this project because you wanted earn easy money, and Bring a bunch of students to do what you call ” Research”.

    Anyway the main issue is that we don’t see the whale sharks like before, as you know Whale sharks at Hani Faru in baa atoll, few years ago we have seen 14 whale sharks or more along with hundreds of Manta Rays, but the last few years we don’t see that much, the maximum we saw was 7 or 8 maybe. I’ve been visiting this area every year since 2000 and then what I heard was there is a whale shark Research project going on, and they’ve been tagging them. Then I understood that it could be the reason why they are moving away from that area. Even me, I think I’ll hate getting tagged by anyone.

    Do you remember the day you took a group of people from Saudi Arabia with the Re-Breathers on one of the AZIMUT boat, who were riding whale sharks in Hani Faru.(Just saying it because that’s what I saw). On that day I saw soneva fushi dive guide grabbed the BCD of the one of the guy in that group and went to the surface, also there were some Four Season Divers and other boats. As you being the trip organizer and leader for the these rich groups, you should have controlled them and their actions. Not someone else from another resort. You just stayed there doing nothing but taking pictures while your client was riding a shark. This shows how much you love marine life and also how responsible you are when it comes to your JOB. Shame on You man!!!

    So I really can’t trust or believe you cos this happened right in front of my eyes, so basically you guys are funded to do what you call “Research” is to save our seas for these rich people, let them come and have fun rides with the whale shark and Mantas.

    I wish I had a shot of soneva fushi dive guide and this “Prince’s”( i heard) fight. Everybody can ask about this with him. Just ring them up and ask. Then only you will know the truth.

    These people are like cassette tapes. Have got two sides. Side A and Side B. Both are completely different and most of the time they play side A to make a good impression while side B is the truth..

    So don’t try to tell us that you are doing it right, and you guys are the best researchers, and you guys know everything about it.

    Fortunately my Research Permit to research about you and your team is still valid,

    And this is the Fact.

  24. Guy Stevens said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

    To address D.Browns first comment:

    That is not me in the picture of someone riding a whale shark and I was not present at the time it occured! Also, it is not illegal to touch or ride whale shark! However, it is something which i strongly dissagree with and have never done myself or would condon. The MWSRP have actually been trying to get a code of conduct for snorkeling and diving with whale sharks put into law by the Maldivian Government to stop these kinds of incidents occuring. I was very dissapointed when I heard of this incident, but to be honest, surely there are bigger issues here than whether or not someone i know once rode/touched a whale shark. Where does all your anger come from??? Please email me and I am happy to discuss whatever issues or concerns you have. I am truly concerned that you think my intentions of the research project are purely for person gain….I thought I made that clear in my previous statement.

  25. Guy Stevens said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

    To address D.Browns second comment:

    I am glad you bought this point up about the tagging, I was going to mention it before myself. I am afraid once again you have your facts a little warped. Every year I apply to the Government for a research permit to continue my work, every year the Government has issued me this permit to undertake the tagging aspect of my research. Two year ago someone (who would not leave a name or would not contact me) made an anonymous complaint to the Government about my tagging. The Government where obviously concerned at a potential breach of the permit regulations and therefore temporarily suspended the permit while they investigated.

    The false allegations by the anonymous person where that: 1.) I was tagging whale sharks instead of mantas (seems a little odd, considering each tag is expensive and purchased specifically with the intention and design of deployment on a specifically chosen species…in this case manta rays, so why would I decide to just attach it to a shark instead??), 2.) That I was tagging outside of the permit date specified (again completely false), and 3.) That I was tagging mantas in front of tourists; again something which I have always been extremely sensitive towards and 100% guarantee that has never happened. In fact no one outside of my research team have ever witnessed me tagging a manta ray, despite requests by myself to have a representative of the Maldivian Government present during each tagging trip to witness and validate my work.

    Mr. Brown I welcome you to come along and witness the tagging next time I carry it out so I can allay any concerns you may have. All the above allegations where found to be unfounded by the Government and this is why they saw no reason to continue the suspension of the permit. Every manta rays I have ever tagged (just 17 in total in the last six years in the Maldives, out of an estimated population of roughly 5-10,000) continues to be seen and visit the same locations they where tagged at just a frequently after they has been tagged as before. Indeed the specific design of my tags are such that to get any data back from them the animals need to visit those sites they where tagged at …..therefore, why would I want to tag an animal which would then leave the area…..negatively impacting its behaviour……the one thing I am trying to study. All individuals tagged previously have been re-sighted, and continue to be re-sighted year after year with no ill effect from the tag. Again, if you want to learn more about my research please send me an email. Or contact the Government who I send a full report to each year at the end of the tagging permit. I have also repeatedly requested to give presentations to the Government to detail my work. I have presented my findings to the local dive centres and resorts in Baa Atoll and I am more than happy to help allay any fears you may have about the potential problems you feel exist with tagging these wild animals.

  26. sindi said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

    MWSRP stop tagging you have to listen to locals as well
    u cant just turn up here and start harpoon tagging the sharks whts wrong with you people!! u could either use photos to identify sharks or alternate friendlier methods,sharks have been here for ages isn’t it obvious that if you continuously hit an animal it dose not like you and moves away and for your information Safari boats and snorkelers have every right to see them as well.
    Most of the local and foreign safari boats and dive schools do a good job with briefing and awareness like it or not they do a professional job at it, a few of the either local or foreign do mistakes that dose not make all the safari boats in Maldives a threat to whale sharks wht are you people really talking about???
    the message i get is that whale sharks should only be seen by the MWSRP and every single other person is really stupid and has no respect for wild life and is a threat.
    GET life and Please GROW up …

  27. Alibe said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 1:46 pm

    it interesting how these researches claim that they are the ones who had protected these areas- when we ‘locals’ have been developing these area for years – we have been seeing these whale sharks before Adam Haman was born – it was locals who requested to make this area a marine protected are NOT MWSRP !!!
    You don’t harm animals in proteceted areas…..by swimming behind them and tagging – after how many mishits???? – Does the whaleshark wait for you to tag so that its precise? …what bullshit is this!!!
    MWSRP is earning a hell lot money through ‘DONATIONS”—- spend their holiday here in the name or research….

    Guy Stevens – don’t talk crap -

  28. Thakuru said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    MWSRP has been working illegally in da Maldives- law states that a local person must be there to monitor- this is what happens when we don’t monior researches!!…. fo them its a few years holiday having fun – playing around the whalesharks – no benefit for the locals?
    These so called researches will go back to write their book and print their names in big!!!!!!

    Listen to the Locals!!!- Its our future – these foriegners are just showing off!!

  29. Guy Stevens said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

    To address Dave’s comments:

    Where do you work “Dave”? I would be happy to discuss this further with you at anytime, if you want me to come to your resort or Local Island to give a presentation on my work please just let me know.

    You are correct, I work as a marine biologist at the Four Seasons Resorts in the Maldives, they have been supporting my research for the last 5 years, for which I am very grateful. Funding for my research equipment also comes from the Save Our Seas Foundation (www.saveourseas.com) and internationally recognized organization which aims to promote the conservation, education and preservation of our oceans planet. Please visit there website to see all the good work and projects they support.

    Regarding article writing and supporting the establishment of Marine Protected Areas in the Maldives and the local communities; I would firstly make the comment that I continually write articles, presentations, blogs, update my website, produce literature and give presentations on my research and other conservation work that I trying to achieve here in the Maldives. Probably most notably would be the release of a National Geographic Magazine Article last July which specifically detailed my research at Hanifaru and reached 50 million people worldwide. In this article I specifically urged the Maldivian Government to create protective legislation for Hanifaru. You can read the article online at: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/07/manta-rays/barcott-text.

    My research was also part of a BBC Natural World Special which highlighted Hanifaru and my research and the need for protection of these animals for the benefit of the local communities as well as the mantas. This program was aired in the UK to millions of viewers and will air this year globally on the Discovery Channel….which we get here in the Maldives. This month I have a feature article in the BBC Wildlife Magazine, again detailing Hanifaru and the need to further regulate and protect this site.

    I am currently writing a book about the manta rays and whale sharks of the Maldives which will be published by the save our seas foundation to buy in the Maldives and worldwide. Profits generated from this book will directly go towards the Maldivian communities who are working to protect the MPA at Hanifaru and other key manta ray and whale shark sites in the Maldives.

    The Save Our Seas Foundation is donating US$40,000 to the Maldivian Government this year to buy a Wardens vessel to police Hanifaru as tourism grows.

    I have been working with the MWSRP and the Ministry of the Environment to raise funds to build two visitors and educational centres on local islands at these key MPA areas. The aim of these centres are to provide a location to help educate local communities and issue permits to access the MPA’s which will generate income for the local communities and to also allow Maldivian to benefit from and learn more about these amazing creatures. This is your natural heritage and my only aim is to help the Maldivians help themselves to a better and more sustainable future for themselves and the marine life upon which they rely. I am sorry if this is not how you feel and would like to do all in my power to change these misconceptions you have about me. What more do you think I should be doing to help?

    I have also been working very closely with the Ministry of the Environment for several years to implement the necessary steps needed to effectively protect Hanifaru; the creation of the MPA, the snorkel and diver guidelines, the Memorandum or Understanding fro divers, snorkellers and tour oporators. These are all things which the Manta Project has been integrally part of creating.

    As for your comments about the Save Our Seas diving incident at Hanifaru, I won’t even bother to waste my time addressing your version of the events. Again, what is the real issue here? Ensuring that manta rays and whale sharks are properly protected and conserved in the Maldives, in which case I am happy to discuss things in great detail….or, to simply throw complaints and make accusations about who touched a whale shark that shouldn’t have!

    To address your concerns about your observed decline in the number of whale sharks seen in Baa Atoll and Hanifaru specifically over the last few years I can give you some data to help allay your concerns. In 2007 the research project recorded 16 sightings of sharks inside Hanifaru. In 2008 we recorded 49, and in 2009 we recorded 33. And if, as you suggest, tagging the whale sharks has been scaring them away in the last few years, you may find it interesting that this year was the only time whale sharks have been tagged in Hanifaru and then only a few individuals were tagged. The same trend is true for the manta rays. It’s simply not true or accurate to simply say that tagging these animals scares them away, all the science suggests otherwise. I wish you would look at the facts instead of making wild assumptions. The data is here anytime you want to look at it, just email me or request it from the Government.

  30. Iburey said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

    One very sad truth is that our government listen and trust the foriegners more than their own blood. If a foreigner states its a ‘ptotected area’ – its approved without further questions.
    Although us locals have done all the work – we are teaching them where the whalesharks are and we are the ones who makes sure the entry point is right – how could you take the credit?

    Its very easy to submit statistic and show things to the government coz they will listed as they have no clue of what’s really going outthere?
    All these researchers are very good in doing power point presentations and mislead the ministries –

    We locals are a bit advance than that now – maybe a 20 years back forigners thought we are coconut heads- not anymore!!!

    What is a bigger fact than the complain from over 40 safari boats – practically going there everday – says that they don’t see the whalesharks as they used to see them?…what more witness do we need? – Its very easy to prove your own statistics but the truth can be a bit different.

    And how come these guys didnt bother to take a local among them?- just because they might learn something or they might see what MWSRP is doing?….

    For gods sake …wake up…. Maldivians – Its our country after all!!…and we are not going to sell our whalesharks as christmas presents!!

  31. Robert said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

    Guy Steven?… how is the Manta sponsering going on?- earned enough donations to leave Maldives!!!

  32. Guy Stevens said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    I agree with Sindi and others, there needs to be much better communication and involvement with locals, dive operators, divers association, etc. There obviously are problems here, but I honestly believe we all want the same thing and each side of the argument can learn a lot from the other.

    Those divers and fishermen who have been observing these animals here in the Maldives long before some of us were born, as it was pointed out, have a wealth of knowledge and expertise which I believe should be listened to and respected. But at the same time, the science we are collecting really is important as well and we would never conduct tagging on these animals if we thought it was scaring them away or harming them in anyway. This is why we have asked for representatives from the Government to come and see what we do and to be extremely transparent with our findings and methodology. But obviously we need to try harder, so I urge all of you who have concerns to discuss how we can better work towards these common goals. I am open to all constructive suggestions.

  33. Deepspark said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

    As mentioned on other comments as well there are 2 sides one the research community and the dive professionals.
    The researcher’s in my opinion should find an alternative method rather than taging, they could use photos to check for pattern, tail shape and so on.
    I am mentioning this because i have seen dive sites losing its natural habitats to give you a small example, Ukulas thila used to be one of the best best spots for Manta rays in the past but since the taging of manta rays at this spot there has been no manta rays for the past years visiting this site.
    I honestly dont know the actual reason but i can presume the right techniques were not used.
    As for the diving professionals i would say we should enforce the rules and be strict about guests touching whale sharks or other marine creatures.
    I have seen on many liveaboards or resort operations allowing people to touch or ride whalesharks or manta rays simply because they do not want to say no to a paying customer.
    Only sollution is through awareness within the dive community.

  34. D.Brown said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

    That’s exactly what I am saying here. We have got bigger issues..

    I am sure you were going to tell the world that your license were suspended. Just when someone brings this up you say this. I am sure everyone believes that.

    You said
    ” I was very disappointed when I heard of this incident, but to be honest, surely there are bigger issues here than whether or not someone I know once rode/touched a whale shark.”

    When someone under your responsibility touch/ride a whale shark we have to leave that because we have got bigger issues. But when a guest or 2 touch a whale shark from a Boat. Then it becomes the biggest issue in the Maldivian history. Talk sense.

    We have bigger issues. It’s people like you who come here and tag them at protected areas. So first we have to deal with tag thing and then come for divers and snorkelers. Or is PROTECTED a word too big for me to use.

    What we ask from you is not to tag them from these few protected areas. Find new sites. Do research at those sites. If you leave the protected areas and do research at new places I am sure you will be getting help from all of us.

    I think we are not asking for too much. Just to leave the tag thing and do research in new areas other than protected areas.

    Once this comes to an end. We surely need to regulate the Safari boat whale shark watching in an official way. Why not all of us sit together with the relevant authorities and make a guide line for watching them. I am sure that would be a good start. You could also help us in making the guidelines with all us together. Locals just want you to stop tagging.

  35. D.Brown said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

    Guy Stevens I agree with you with some of the things you say. I am sure you have the same opinion. We should all communicate with each other. Better communication i guess. But always one person can never be right.
    I hope all this talk will make things better.

    Who ever it is. When you do something wrong…Its Wrong….

  36. Deepspark said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 6:38 pm

    if research comunity wants to do something good for the maldives they should try and find new locations where special marine creatures can be spotted. or if they are after the money try to invest time in the maldivian history about ship wrecks in time of the silk route.

  37. Ray said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

    Hello Divers,

    Having done thousands of dives in the Maldives and dived in many areas, the first reason why we see less sharks (whale or whatever specie) than years (decades) ago in the Maldives is the continuously increasing number of divers/visitors (and boats) in the same area. Without mentioning the shark fishing for the Asian market (25 sharks were seen on a beach few years ago in Ari Atoll and dying sharks on the sea-floor without fins have been seen in the closest protected marine area in the maldives, Embudu channel).

    To the people who have some memory of the eighties, may I recall that there were plenty of Grey reef and white tip sharks just at banana reef which is only 15 minutes by boat from Male? Now you can be happy if you spot one white-tip shark once a week in theses dive sites.
    The only way to see them going back is just simply dive less in the same areas. In some countries (Spain, Indonesia) they have successfully given a weekly schedule for each diving center visiting a protected area which led to a maximum of 2 boats a day in the same place. I think the government should inspire itself from this kind of regulation who proved to be beneficial for all the parties, including the environment and the business.

    A lover of the Maldives

  38. Dave said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

    Guy, from the research i had about you i learn that you and your friends are doing this research for fun, You are telling us that you don’t know anything about the pictures which is in haveeru.com.mv, i’m sure you know them, one of them apparently is the dive center manager where you work, and the other guy was one of your marine biologist, they are/were your colleagues dude…
    if we have to write every single thing in the law, then the law will never get finished…. i thought in Maldives diving regulations there is a sentence saying that you are not allowed to touch or harass any animal, who ever does it its so wrong,… and i truely believe a person who claims that you are helping the environment in baa atoll or anywhere, have to brief your staffs or your colleagues,….You are the person who organized this whale shark and manta riding trip to these rich people, apparently who was supporting you with money. I thought its ridiculous that they pay money to you to protect whale sharks and manta’s, so that they can come back to those areas where you research and have fun rides,

    About tagging, believe me or not, i saw a whale shark with a tag, the tagged area was kind of rotten, and i saw about 2- 3inch space opened and you can see the flash inside, 100% sure that area was infected.Dude they are not vaccinated to protected from metal poisoning and stuff.

    May be the project you are doing in Baa Atoll to regulate the Hanifaru area with the help of resorts and Save Our Seas and resorts is a good thing, good luck with it. But NEVER LET the rich founders come back and have FUN rides, and say I PAID FOR THIS…DON’T worry my spying eye is everywhere.

    But what you guys have done wrong is completely wrong. which is tagging,riding and selling our the animals to these rich tourists… some people believe if you are American or British, you are 100% right, if they have practiced something, its the best. But that is so wrong, and you know it.Everything they say cannot be right always.
    I don’t like anyone attacking any marine animals in the name of research.
    If someone tag you or stick a metal harpoon to your skin, how will you react, do you really want a metal line sticking out of your skin and walk around to show people that you have a tag??? i’m sure it will be so painful ( ouch!!!)…

    I’m still doing research about you and your team.i don’t have to tag any one of you… but slowly slowly may be one day, if i’m alive i’ll be able to write an artical..

    Tagging the marine animals is the main reason why i changed my carrier many years ago. may be before you were born.

  39. fehurihi said,

    January 24, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

    Why dont these researchers camp on isolated uninhabited islands? There they will not be troubled by the locals. Perhaps some canibals may come and feed on them? Not even normal resorts! Only 20 star resorts?! Strange…………..I think even animals do not have to be tagged and researched all the time. How many years would you guys need to produce any USEFUL MATERIAL.. Not stuff like the manta swims because it is swimming.
    The Maldivian Government must give these hard working researchers a rest! Send them all home for a few years. They need to digest and redigest all the information collected through the years!

  40. Guy Stevens said,

    January 25, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

    OK. So I think we are getting somewhere. We agree we need to talk. So what about a meeting in Male where all those who have a concern can come and discuss the issues? Maybe through the Divers Association??

    I would like to address a couple of points though;

    As far as I am aware the only places mantas have ever been tagged in the Maldives are at Lankan Reef in North Male (4 years ago) and in Baa Atoll (last 3 years). So I very much doubt that this was the reason for mantas leaving Ukulas Thila. Could it maybe due to all the divers. Or natural fluctuations in food availability?

    Dave, you are completely correct about people touching or riding these animals, its wrong…full stop! And as much as I try to impose my will upon the people I work with, I cannot be held accountable for their actions. I always tell people not do this, and I was very angry at them for doing so. But as we all know in this world you can’t control all your guests and friends all the time, especially when you are not there. I just try to lead by example, as I am sure you do. And if every divermaster in this discussion is honest with themselves they will have been in a situation where a guest or colleague of theirs has done something wrong or damaging to the marine environment at some point when they where present. DID YOU ALWAYS DO THE RIGHT THING?? Be honest with yourselves.

    I really enjoy my work, I am passionate about conserving and saving these animals and making tourism work for the mantas, whale sharks and the local Maldivian communities. Does this mean that I should not find fun in my work??? Is this wrong, should i be miserable and unhappy with my work to make it worthwhile??? What does each of you do to help protect the Maldives???? How much of your time and energy do you spend trying to conserve this country’s wildlife??

    Believe me, if I wanted to make money in this world I would not be working as a marine biologist studying manta rays in the Maldives. Every single $ I get given for the Manta Project goes directly towards my work. I have spent six and a half years of my life in this country and believe me the reason why I love it so much has got nothing to do with making money……I am constantly disappointed that certain people think this is the only reason why scientists come here. Why don’t you look at the facts instead of letting wild speculation, gossip and rumors determine all your thoughts?

    If you all believe that tagging scares the animals away and hurts them, then OK, let’s get together and discuss this. But you have to be able to look at things from an objective point of view. I respect all your opinions, but you have to have reasoning behind them. No one is trying to “sell whale sharks as Christmas Presents”….Do you really think people are going to take them home with them in there hand luggage. Maybe they could keep it as a pet in their fish tank at home.

    The only reason why projects like my manta project and the MWSRP have to come up with ideas like sponsoring a whale shark or manta is because we have no money to be able to do the work we think is important. Why does everything have to be about getting rich to some of you?? Yes, there are lots of ways to study these animals, and I spend much of my time photographing mantas and even more of my time in my office trying to communicate with the Government and local stakeholder about how we should try harder to protect these animals. But I still believe that tagging is essential to learn answers to some questions which are very important, answers which you cannot get from these other forms of research like photo-ID. What would you all think if I was to tell you that the Maldivian whale sharks where found to leave the Maldives on a regular basis and visit country’s where they where being killed? Would this not worry you? Well this is exactly the type of thing which the tagging can tell us.

    Protecting an animal in the Maldives is great, but what happens when it leaves here? And did you know that it seems all the sharks actually come here when they are small from somewhere else. It’s a big world out there and simply to say “leave the whale sharks alone here in the Maldives and everything will be fine”, just will not work. These animals are likely to live for over 100 years and the Maldives is just a small part of their life. Also, did know that virtually all the sharks here are adolescent males. Where are nearly all the babies? the females? and the adults??? This is why we need science. Does it not worry you that so many of the whale sharks in the Maldives have been hit by speed boats? What about the two sharks swimming around with their dorsal fins cut off and the others which probably were not so lucky? How do you think we are able to find out about these things? Please, please, please try to learn the facts before you are quick to point fingers and make accusations. We need science, so do the manta rays and whale sharks. And if any of you would like to come out and be a part of this work I would love to have your assistance. After all it’s your country; I just want to help you preserve it.

  41. Whimsey said,

    January 25, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

    Dear all
    I have been watching the dialogue on this topic for a while and as an impartial observer I would like to make a few comments.
    It just seems a terrible shame that so many dedicated and passionate people are in disagreement over this issue. It is clear to me that all, or nearly all, of the comments have the welfare of the Shark and the preservation of the local environment at heart.
    I can see that individual interests have caused tensions and disagreement and at the centre of this disagreement lies a lack of communication and dialogue. Perhaps a positive outcome of this exchange of views will be a meaningful discussion leading to some sort of understanding and tolerance.
    Local interaction is very important and it is good that people have passionate views on the subject – it shows they care, however, personal attacks and insults heaped upon on the MWSRP are unhelpful and upsetting. Clearly the MWSRP are undertaking this research with the very best of intentions and their efforts should be applauded. One criticism that could be levelled at them is the lack of Maldivians at the sharp end of the research and perhaps this could have been funded as part of the development plan for the project.
    One last comment is that proper scientifically gathered base data produced from internationally accepted protocols is of vital importance. Any environmental policy or scheme requires this information to asses and validate its progress. Anecdotal evidence and impressions are useful and interesting but ultimately unreliable. Only data, such as those collected the MWSRP, can give an accurate indication of the effect of any action designed to help the Whale Shark population and shed light on to its fascinating biology.
    The aim of all concerned must be to protect and enhance the environment for the Whale Shark and such data is an essential prerequisite for proper environmental impact analysis.
    I can’t help thinking that we are seeing the airing of some deep rooted grievances. This is not surprising from a country that was a British Protectorate between 1887 and 1965. Isn’t it time to put those grievances away and work together to support the Whale Shark and the local economy?

  42. fehurihi said,

    January 25, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

    who is this Guy anyway? Why is his but getting so heated? Is he also tagging something?
    “As far as I am aware….” means that yo are only aware back to 4 years and 3 years of tagging! “……natural fluctuations in food availability!” a very nice scientific statement!
    Go to Television Maldives and ask for live footage on manta tagging at Ukulhas Thila!……… FULL STOP…. AND GO HOME!
    Can you please explain how you can tell by tagging if a Maldives whale shark visited a killer country or reversed! Foto ID could tell us that much. Maybe a big enough tag could tell us why, when, where and how!
    As far as I am aware biopsy samples already collected could be used to determine population relationships between Maldives whale shark and those seen at seasonal aggregations elsewhere.
    Foto IDs collected could be instrumental in comparing similar elsewhere to discover migratory patterns!
    As far as I am aware the PATs can tell us depths and temperature, even that only if recovered as flotsam somewhere when the shark dived so deep that it “pops off”.
    Please tell us how deep and at what temperatures we can find the parents and the babies.
    It seems that whale sharks dive thousand metres deep to corpulate and return to the surface for incubation. They dive again for delivery and the babies drift in the currents. By the time they reach Maldives, they are adolescent and most of the females perished along the way.
    “we need science and so do the manta rays and whale sharks”

  43. James Varndell said,

    January 26, 2010 @ 8:18 am

    Right then people.. time to clear a few lies out of the way. Sindi, “Dave” and “D.Brown” (i know these aren’t your real names), how can you write such horrible things without any evidence? You are so happy to insult peple like Mr Stevens and the MWSRP, and yet you are too cowardly to meet with them and open into healthy dialogue?

    Nobody is making money here. there is no money to be made from scientific work. the MWSRP is a charity and all the accounts are available for anybody to read.

    It has been suggested that it is about being american/british and that we always think we are right. We do not. if you knew anything about the programme you would know that local fishermen and community is regularly consulted. local knowledge is soo important. And why do the MWSRP not have any Maldivians working with them?? Because no maldivians are willing to come and work for no money. All of the team are volunteers. ANY maldivian who is interested in helping should contact them; i’m sure they would be really happy.

    And the local divers have not been “protecting” the sharks for years. The FenMaaDiguRan MPA was only created through the work of the MWSRP and the government together. Don’t forget that only 20 years ago, whale sharks were still being hunted in the maldives….

  44. fehurihi said,

    January 26, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

    Whale shark hunting ended when coconut oil and cooking oil was available for their boats. The effort required was not worth when compared to the ready to buy and pour oils!
    This MPA was not the idea of and not the result of the efforts by MWSRP. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time and did not hesitate to take the credit. They will probably start claiming credit for the rest of the MPAs and ban on shark fishing. Not very surprising………!
    You would believe that Captain Cook discovered America! But Cook also discovered people living in America!!!!!!!!!
    This is all about opportunists! By the time the great publications come to the market, the poor JOEYs would be long gone from the Maldives.
    Helping this country to conserve and preserve is just a propaganda!
    Strange that sponsorship comes from upmarket resorts and luxury cruise ships. Did not hear of any established research institutes sponsoring or even employing this MWSRP.
    Time to give second thought to MWSRP

  45. sindi said,

    January 26, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

    Dear :James Varndell
    Yes I do believe that MWSRP should stop tagging and I still do, if these people tend to tag along protected marine dive sties and when tourist are diving on these areas incidents would happen as a Dive Master or an instructor my blood would boil to see some people come down and harpoon tag a whale shark or come down with a measuring tape and scare it off the site or any other animal watched at the same time as my guests. And yes whale sharks have been in Maldives from I don’t know when but I am sure they didn’t arrive with MWSRP or any research program.

    I don’t see any reason why I should sit down with MWSRP they should sit down with the Government of Maldives and The Divers Association and yes the liveaboards Association, MWSRP went on to press labeling local safari boats as a threat to whale sharks I don’t see how that has helped them at all they should have discussed these issues with the government first, have to say that bit was very unprofessional.
    I don’t know which part of my say was rubbish for your weakly brain to digest Ta Ta have a nice day now

  46. D.Brown said,

    January 26, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    James Varndell

    You seem to know too much. So now the issue is not having proper names.

    You just want us to say you are doing great things to help Maldives.
    And all things are done for free. Yeah yeah you do all things for free.
    Research is done for nothing. Charity…. What a Joke…..

    We will never be on your side to tag these animals. Not even in your dreams.

    Because local divers have never been protecting them for the last 20 years we have so many of them. Whale sharks were hunted but not anymore. Now it’s being harassed by you research people.
    Leave US ALONE….Go and help some other country…
    Or i forgot …you can’t leave..$$$$$$$$$$

    We have been watching these sharks for a long time now. Long before you even came to the Maldives…Now you want us to hand over the area for you to do some stupid research…I mean tagging them.

    Take picture and do snorkeling with them. But don’t think of tagging them. Because we will make sure it does not happen here anymore.

    Have a good day SIR…..

  47. Lother said,

    January 26, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

    Doing this research in the maldives dose not help the local community or the stakeholders in any way, it seem the sole purpose of the research is for the researchers own profit.
    1. bring in new marine biology students with a fee for there continuing education.
    2. bring guest from the resorts to watch while they do the research.
    3. selling whale shark on the internet. (who owns them anyway???)
    4. getting funds from several companies.
    and so on.

    Guy Stevens in your comments you said you have done seminars in resorts safari boats (probably only one boat i believe) and in some islands schools.

    in short we totally against your research.
    specially doing in south ari atoll Maamigili outside.
    so stop the crazy research and move on……

  48. issay said,

    January 26, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

    Just had to say something.
    What is the real use if some researchers found the migration routes, depths,etc of whale sharks or any other ocean going fish????
    I no one group of people who will benefit!!!!.
    The commercial fishermen & the fishing network. so i would say its the worst thing any scientist can do in the name of conservation or what ever ego driven idea. What if! these same researchers were funded by the same fishing tycoons??? who knows.??? Im sure its very catchy,, what you say??
    The thing is, just because a bunch of people studied their arsses out for their whole lives, they had to just do something to just prove something to them selves or to, probably their professors.. Laugh out loud.

    First they take picture, then they swim with them, then they wanna radio tag them, now they got satellite tags, the next generation of scientists will want to go further, by one notch just to prove they are better, so they would probably make the whale sharks wear dyphers to make them stop pooing too much, in order to save the ocean from pollution..
    But the minute some poor fisherman caught a shark these guys go nuts & say, its outrageous.. LOL… this is the mentality of Humans..if some tourists go swim with sharks its considered bad.
    But stabbing the gentle giants with stainless steel miniature harpoons are fine, oh yeah its in the name of research..
    I was in more than one of the Manta ray tagging expedition about 15 years or so back. one thing was certain. never once, we saw a tagged Manta ray on the spot where it was tagged!!!!

    Will the researchers mind if some 6 legged platypus swam down to them & whacked them with a harpoon, right on their butt??? I dont think so..

    So guys, by any measure, its wrong to tag any living thing. just do your research on something else..
    Why dont you go to India & tell the fisherman there to stop killing the whale sharks instead of annoying the fishes which are here..
    So what if they migrated, so what if they were big with spots, or if they bear live young.. SOO, WHAT????

    bottom line!! stop the shit here & take your research somewhere else.
    Just do not go thinking that, we can come to Maldives & do some research, have a few drinks & also get good tan & brag abt it , while some idiot will be funding us…

    Leave the fishes in the sea Alone, After all if something natural happens & the fishes or coral start dying, all the scientists will again start research, & by the time you guys write your thesis and books, everything would have run its course.. so arn’t you at least feeling stupid to believe that after all your fancy books & research, you don’t know anything at all.. so please for gods sake stop wasting time and try to become an accountant or something!!!!

    I sure hope im not offending anyone here. but i just found it quiet silly to know that grown up people with good education doing stupid things in the name of science. its not even science..!! Because you cannot change the whale sharks patterns of migration etc. so what you cannot recreate in your lab cant be considered science..

    Peace out :)

  49. fehurihi said,

    January 27, 2010 @ 6:41 am

    Issey…………..next time if the traffic police ask to see your driving license tell them its in your computer, and get them to talk to the Minister…ok! Then you qualify as research scientist!

    “….The recovered data on seawater temperature are used to refine estimates of movements and also to generally define the thermal habitats that the sharks live in and travel through, and the data on hydrostatic pressure are used to reconstruct the general vertical habitats that whale sharks likely forage in.”

    See… they can
    1- Refine estimates of movements
    2- Generally define thermal habitats sharks live in and travel through.
    3- Reconstruct the general vertical habitats whale sharks likely forage in.

    Just imagine how much it can help to conserve the Maldive whale shark population and to generate income for the Maldivians through Scientific research.

    I wonder what portion of the tag detaches and what remain embedded in the body. One type of tag they say they have to dig out of the whale shark. Dont worry……….., they have scientific methodology to dig them out of the whale shark!

    Once there was a Charles guy who worked with Fish ministry for a thousand years, published many books, made a fortune and educated people through whale watching……..NON PROFIT…of course!..This guy wanted to share the spoils with a few fellows and introduced a new trend to cash in on whale sharks…..CHARITY…..! A seal fellow decided to make a publication by changing “seal” to “whale shark” on the previous thing…NON PROFIT…on course!

    BEFORE THIS CHARITY MESSES UP OUR WHALE SHARK BUSINESS; GET THEM OUT OF HERE!

  50. Dave said,

    January 27, 2010 @ 8:00 am

    James Varndell!!! and all, Do you really know Guys Stevens? As i wrote earlier comments i’m doing Research about these guys,.I’m going to ask government for such kind of Permit,If i find these guys and if i’m prepared with the tagging gun then i may also try to tag them,to let them realize… But still i could not find any positive point of tagging these animals,riding the whale sharks. If you need a proof check http://www.haveeru.com.mv and ask Guy Stevens who are those guys… This is so wrong a group of professionals who knows everything, does such kind of things infront of coconut chewing people,
    will you support people to do it, and sell marine animals to these tourists?, For god sake the research permit is not for that. first whole world knows that each whale shark have their own identity, so why the hell someone have to tag that lovely animal???What the hell are they going to read from that metal piece of”thing” hanging, and dragged by that lovely animal?

    I’m telling you i cannot support for tagging or any research in that area, Neither “Sindi” nor “D.Brown”. That is marine protected area, even scientists shouldn’t be allowed to do their own studies. before their were no scientist or researchers, which was much better cos nobody have to warn or threat someone, which was more peaceful and we’ve been watching them.I’m living here since 1982, on and off. never ever heard about such kind of issue.

    MWSRP made a guideline for these areas which is a good thing, even though its the same guideline as Australia. but that will not work in these areas, because there was no negotiation between MWSRP,resorts and Liveaboards. Most of the guides were not aware about those guidelines. Liveaboards have been watching them since the beginning of tourism, and they always try their best to protect that area, they always hated shark fisherman’s. but ofcourse no one can stop fishermans cos their was no LAW to stop them until Yesterday. I personally don’t want to meet any of these guys, cos i know i hated some of the things they did to these animals…They need to negotiate the Government and DAM together find a solution, but the best solution is that they get punished for what they have done wrong.

    Have a wonderful DAY sir.

  51. Dave said,

    January 27, 2010 @ 8:23 am

    Yes… Guy Stevens and MWSRP had many Seminers with his student, what they say volunteers, which actually taught to us what is research, and made us aware about the marine animals more than 20years ago here in MALDIVES, hehehe.
    Sorry did i say morethan 20years? Guy Stevens Probably didn’t have any idea about any marine animal,the only thing they would heard is FISH only FISH….GUY!! Sorry if you have been as a marine biologist for more than 20years.

    I bet most of them they saw these animals yesterday or day before, and they are saying they are the experts of these animals. what a JOKE…

    ciao

  52. D.Brown said,

    January 27, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

    They are just selling our whale-sharks. Sponsor this and that.

    Give a name for $$$$
    Put a hat on it for $$$$
    Have a 1 on 1 romantic time for $$$$$ ( Video extra $$$$)

    This is more or less the idea behind all this….

  53. fehurihi said,

    January 27, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

    Hey, you coconut heads!

    Did you know these mwsrp scientists have it all planned out to colonize the Maamigili area to accommodate friends from america and various other power yielding communities in the name of research. In their web site they already announced their intentions and partners!.SOOO,…make the best of it now cos later on you will not be allowed to enter that area. The scientists will conserve the place until nothing lives there anymore!
    Once the research team is done, we will have to search and re-search and re-re-search for signs of life.
    They will soon bring the new tags reseached by the australian research teams.
    They are here because they can just go get them like peas in a grocery. In other places you need to search and locate with light air craft and then drive by speed boat to harass the animals!
    OTHER RESEARCHERS ARE LOOKING FOR MORE HUMANE METHODS OF IDENTIFICATION COLLECTING INFORMATION!

  54. Thakuru said,

    January 27, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

    Bottom line is simple – we Maldivians will not let a bunch of charity workets (who chooses five star accomodation and sell our resources & live in so called ‘doations’) – in specific MWSRP or GUY STEVENS to take away what we have!!!
    So in short GET LOST and do ur research elsewhere !!…we don’t need you stupid excel sheets to find our how many whalesharks or manta’s are there!!..
    MWSRP – u better be prepared for the result of negative propaganda against our tourism…
    Nice articles on DO & Minivan… – if u think u can get away with this – you are wrong…
    A 23yr old school boa (Adam Harman) has what qualifications to work as a scientist?… we coconut heads can teach u more….

    S pack ur bags and be ready to leave – government cannot stop us!!.

  55. En Madi said,

    January 27, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

    Guy Stevens – haven’t u had enough of living ur luxury life at four season?… Do’t u get it- that we don’t want you here?… Aren’t u ashamed of your self>>>!!
    So Don’t Talk nonsense…. you can do ur talks and presentations to the government guys who doesnt have a clue of how precious our Marine life is – NOT FOR US!!!

    No more Manta taggings in the Maldives!!

  56. issay said,

    January 28, 2010 @ 6:49 pm

    James Varndell said
    (time to clear a few lies out of the way. Sindi, “Dave” and “D.Brown” (i know these aren’t your real names), how can you write such horrible things without any evidence? You are so happy to insult peple like Mr Stevens and the MWSRP, and yet you are too cowardly to meet with them and open into healthy dialogue?)

    Now Now, Mr. know it all, gone are the days when the retarded island people bow down to the french conquistador. The names you have mentioned above are actually the names i my self also call them.
    There is no coward here..!!!! Ask them they also call me Issay. Do you want my address… but i got no time to go and sit with you. we have more important things to do.

    The fact that no Maldivians are willing to go help you is because, why do we waste our precious time to help you write and publish your egos..??

    If you are still not willing to stop harpooning the fishes in the Maldives in the name of research. then things can turn pretty nasty. Please go tag each other, and do it out of Maldives. We are the Maldivians, we are the ones who dive with the fishes in these water, we know what they are, we do not need you to come and tell us, Whale sharks got spots on their backs.

    This the problem with you guys, you just feel that you can go anywhere in the world and do whatever you want.. sorry pals. not here.. we will stop you from Tagging any fish in these water.. weather you like it or not.
    Get a life. For the last time dont go talking abt I did this I did that. some Maldivians still thing that since your skin is fairer you know everything.. but not the divers in the diving industry. we know more than there is to be known abt your likes..
    Get a life. shooo shooooo..LOL

  57. fehurihi said,

    January 29, 2010 @ 2:46 am

    Anh…Thakuraa…aaandhogey!!!!

    Can you believe this? They got it all figured!

    “2010 promises to be very busy – The whole team hopes to be able to build on the MWSRP’s achievements in the coming year. 2010 goals: The development of a one hundred percent self sufficient eco-facility, to enable a year-round presence for visiting researchers, scientists, students, teachers and volunteers is being planned in partnership with Sheppard Robson (leaders in sustainable design) and the Maldives’ Ministry of Tourism, two foreign student exchange schemes are in motion (one in the UK, the other in Qatar), the MPA development will continue with baseline coral reef and species specific studies and a MPA management specific NGO is being initiated. An American based ‘Friends Of’ organisation is also in the process of registration and the whale shark research will continue to provide the scientific basis behind the programme’s broader conservation goals.”

    Charity will develop a one hundred percent self sufficient eco-facility!
    The last bit is really scientific….”provide the scientific basis behind the programme’s broader conservation goals.”

    It is really shocking how these smarts are scheming like modern day pirates.
    Their reports have already published information from some australian research. Somehow, the same methods and tags are being used here. Obviously no new information can be collected. Its just a matter of who can deploy most number of tags.
    What could be the scientific basis behind the programs broader conservation goals.
    Thakura, you will have to go to a scientific research lab to verify and simplify the meaning behind broader conservation goals. To me it sounds like NONSENSE!
    Sometimes nonsense makes sense to pseudo scientists! hehehehehehe!

    “The tagging research program was authorized under Marine Research Permit No. IR-P/2008/03 from the Ministry of Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources, Male, Republic of Maldives to B. S. Stewart. We also thank Mohamed Faiz, Adbulla Naseer, M. Shiham Adam, Charles Anderson, and Mohamed Hameed for helping with and facilitating issuance of the research permit and for their support of our research program.”

    Quite a network they built for themselves. This Charles is also a very interesting character….! Many publications..!
    The stories never end…………..
    Thakura…lets research these guys……mwsrp. Some fellows even challenge an audit!…now…why did that come up?..can you guess? I have no idea!
    my….my….my…. Im stunnnnnedddd!!!!!

  58. Maldivian Eco lover said,

    February 3, 2010 @ 5:39 am

    What’s obvious to me from the comments here is that those on the liveboard/divers side is exteremely defensive, insulting and aggressive.

    I’not too sure if dive teams would care too much about the the long term survival of the whales or eye the short term, quick dollar approach through the dives. I can perfectly see the rush of the boats close to the whales and possibly sometimes huritng and scaring the beautiful elegant creatures.

    At the same time, we, as Maldivians need to be given more assurances about this tagging technique used by MWSR. Anyway, how long is the contract for the tagging in this zone? Is this unlimited, and do you go on tagging the whales forever?

    I believe some sort of migration monitoring technique is essential (as well as the amount of dives), if we want to study the behaviour in order to aid protection. At the heart of this is the issue of an independent research team that doesn’t favour the tourists of its sponsor resorts. That needs to be looked into.

    Regulating the whale watching divers is important, but its their right too. The dives add to our livelihhod, but they must be done with care and protection of the whales, as an esential element. This needs to ensured through effective policy implementation.

    MWSR needs to work more closely with the local community and the tourism industry, not by getting their tourists involved to aid sponsorship – that’s too tircky. Get sponsorhsips from other sources (it’s hard) but shoudl you really go for the quick buck approach too?

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