SEA manages whale shark tourism at
Gladden Spit in Belize, with direct input from a whale shark working
group made up of national stakeholders. A set of guidelines to ensure a safe
and ecologically-sound experience for everyone, including the whale sharks,
has been developed and is listed below.
WHALE SHARK TOURISM INTERACTION GUIDELINES 2008:
Tour guides wishing to conduct whale shark interaction tours within the Whale Shark Zone must be Whale Shark Certified and carry their Tour Guide ID along with their Whale Shark ID. All whale shark tours must operate from boats that are properly licensed.
- Dive and snorkel tours will be limited to 1 1/2hr (one and one-half hour) time slots for the entire season, allocated by lottery before the March moon 2008.
- A maximum of 6 (six) dive and/or snorkel boats will be permitted inside the larger buoy area known as the Whale Shark Zone.
- All boats should check in with SEA Rangers stationed inside the reef
before proceeding to the Whale Shark Zone.
- Dive and snorkel guides are required to provide briefing on regulations to tourists before entering the area.
- No touching, chasing, or molesting whale sharks will be permitted.
- All boats will fly the 'diver down' flag when they have divers in the water.
- Each boat will carry a maximum of 12 (twelve) clients - divers and/or snorkelers, and/or observers.
- For SNORKEL tours, a maximum of 8 snorkelers to each licensed snorkel guide is permitted.
- For SCUBA tours, a maximum ratio of 8 divers to each licensed dive master is permitted.
- Maximum depth for divers of any certification is 80 (eighty) feet.
- All tourists - divers, snorkelers and observers - must pay a mandated fee of US$15 (fifteen US dollars) per person.
- Divers and snorkelers should remain at least 15 (fifteen) feet away in any direction from a whale shark.
- Dive and snorkel boats must approach all whale sharks at idle speed (not exceeding 2 (two) knots), and maintain idle speed in the vicinity of the whale sharks.
- Boats should remain at least 50 (fifty) feet from any whale shark.
- Dive, snorkel and fishing boats should maintain a distance of at least 200 (two hundred) feet between each other.
- Entry in the water should be no later than 4PM (16:00 hours), and all divers and snorkelers should be out of the water by 5PM (17:00 hours), and out of the reserve by 5:30PM (17:30 hours).
- Whale shark fees shall be applied 1 March to 31 July, 2008.
- Any person who wishes to conduct whale shark tours must have a valid tour guide license, dive master certification (for SCUBA), skin diver certification (for snorkelers) and a certification of graduation from an approved whale shark course.
- Any boat used for whale shark tours for the 2008 season must be at least 23 feet long and no longer than 48 feet.
- Any boat used for whale shark tours must carry oxygen, safety sausages, radio, and lights.
- The annual fee for boat license is BZ$100 (one hundred Belize dollars), payable to the Fisheries Department.
- Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of these regulations is guilty of an offense and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding BZ$2,000 (two-thousand Belize dollars) or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 (six) months, or to both such fine and period of imprisonment and/or revocation of whale shark license.
- Notwithstanding the above, anyone touching a whale shark is liable for a BZ$10,000 (ten thousand Belize dollars) fine.
- Notwithstanding the above, any person who damages corals shall pay a fine not exceeding BZ$10,000 (ten thousand Belize dollars), or some higher penalty based on the assessed damage not exceeding BZ$1,000,000 (one million Belize dollars).
WHALE SHARK TIME SLOTS 2008:
- 19 MARCH - 30 MARCH
- 18 APRIL - 29 APRIL
- 18 MAY - 29 MAY
- 16 JUNE - 27 JUNE
2008 WHALE SHARK LICENSED GUIDES: