Linking livelihoods to improved biodiversity conservation through sustainable integrated coastal management and community based dive tourism : Oslob Whale Sharks
Alternative livelihood projects are criticised as having minimal effect on biodiversity conservation. Studies are rare and where success is claimed, outcomes and reasons why projects work, have not been documented. Livelihoods are an essential element of sustainable integrated coastal management, an accepted framework for conserving coral reefs and marine resources in the tropics. It is not known whether alternative livelihood projects contribute to the goal of improving biodiversity conservation through sustainable integrated coastal management. Here, we examine Oslob Whale Sharks, an alternate livelihoods project in the Philippines built on provisioning whale sharks for community based dive tourism. We investigate how Oslob Whale Sharks contributes to sustainable integrated coastal management and whether it has any effect on biodiversity conservation. Using key stakeholder interviews with artisanal fishers, their community, local politicians and government, we found that Oslob Whale Sharks contributes to all nine factors required for sustainable integrated coastal management. Fishers and local authorities report their perception that whale sharks are protected from poaching and finning and destructive fishing has decreased, while fish abundance, pelagic fish species and catch have increased. Our findings further suggest that as there is little evidence that this type of tourism has any negative impacts on the biology or behaviour of whale sharks, Oslob Whale Sharks provides sustainable livelihoods and a delivery mechanism for sustainable integrated coastal management.