THE local government of Oslob town southern Cebu will implement measures to regulate whale shark watching in barangay Tan-awan by declaring portions of the municipal water as marine protected area.

Technical Working Group created by the Capitol also released guidelines for whale shark watching in barangay Tan-awan in order to protect the world’s biggest fish.

The TWG also recommended to the local government unit of Oslob to pass a municipal ordinance declaring the municipal waters in barangay Tan-awan as marine protected area (MPA).

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typos) is protected under Philippine laws since 1998. It is listed by the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a vulnerable species.

The TWG also recommended the establishment of three staging areas where whale shark watchers can be ferried to the area for the “orderly” dispatch.

The three staging areas correspond to the colors of the tickets issued to the whale shark watchers.

An information board will be placed for each staging area that would inform the whale shark watchers the numbers on the priority cards that are in the area, the numbers of priority cards waiting at the staging area and the numbers on the priority card that are expected to start proceeding to the staging area.

Lifeguards should also be made visible at all times while whale shark watching is allowed.

Personnel that can provide first aid with CPR must also be present in the area.

Only accredited dive operators or dive shops and dive masters are allowed to have access and bring scuba divers to the site. Only duly licensed dive masters shall be given accreditation.

Uniforms and proper identification cards will also be provided to the personnel in the site.

All of these should be provided by the municipality of Oslob.

Other guidelines include that whale shark watchers should be at least three-feet tall.

Life jackets should be worn at all times, and a waiver must be signed by all whale shark watchers.

The TWG also defined the boundaries of the MPA.

The area shall include two perpendicular lines from the coast line (low tide) extending 100 meters to the sea. The third line running parallel to the coast line with the length of 500 meters in barangay Tan-awan and the fourth line shall be the coastline (high tide).

This area boundaries of the MPA will be marked by the deployment of buoys.

Last January, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued an Executive Order No. 01-2012 on the creation of the TWG that will craft guidelines on whale shark watching. /Carmel Loise Matus, Correspondent