Mexican Caribbean Whale Shark Sustainable Management Program

Image: Jorge Trujillo

Background and objectives

Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest fish of the world and one of the most wonderful and enigmatic marine creatures. This species is considered as “Endangered to extinction” according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and as “threatened” in accordance with Mexican official standards.

Whales sharks aggregations sites has been identified in Mexico. These ones are in the northeast Mexican Caribbean (Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo), Gulf of California (Bahía de La Paz, Bahía de Los Ángeles and Bahía San Luis Gonzaga), central coast of Nayarit, Revillagigedo Islands and Salina Cruz, Oaxaca.

Currently, non-extractive use is based on watching and swimming activities with whale sharks. These activities generates important revenues for local economy around aggregations sites. Nevertheless, this resource could be endangered by the touristic over-exploitation, non polites behaviors with the species and/or non eco-friendly tourism without appropriate regulations.

Since 2014, we began formally the program “Sustainable Management of Whale Shark in the Mexican Caribbean”, this one to continue habitat monitoring of this species. The main goals of this program are:

  • Describe the Whale Shark habitat through physics, chemical and biological environmental indicators.
  • Identify tourists and tour-operators actions that could cause change behavior on whale sharks.
  • Get information about number of hurts and scars on whale sharks in the aggregation area and satisfaction level from the tourists after the tour.
  • Spread the project results to tour-operators and stakeholders, to propose at least one agreement to strengthen the polite culture around the whale sharks.

How and where we work?

Since more than 10 years, Pronatura Península de Yucatán A.C., has been collaborating with the Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados Unidad Mérida (CINVESTAV-IPN), together they had been conducting researches about the Whale Shark habitat in the Mexican Caribbean. The results of these researches has increased the knowledgement of the species and has generated valuable information to the stakeholders managers that regulates the whale shark activities.
As strategies, we have elaborated audiovisuals materials, like videos, pictures and posters to sign to touristic sector and tour-operators about good practices to watch and swim with whale sharks and to sign representative’s characteristics of responsible and polites attitudes.

Whale Shark Habitat in the Mexican Caribbean Monitoring Sites . Source: Protocol for monitoring whale shark habitat in the northern Mexican Caribbean, Pronatura Yucatan Peninsula-Cinvestav U. Mérida, April 2017.

Whale sharks are natural treasures, admiring them is a privilege we must all preserve. Help us protect them.

Last five years funding

Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Avanzados IPN CINVESTAV-U. Mérida
Alianza WWF-Fundación Carlos Slim
Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP)