Indonesia: Missing, 17 whale sharks, last spotted in Botubarani

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari The Jakarta Post 15 Aug 16;

Residents of Botubarani village in Bone Bolango, Gorontalo, have found that a school of 17 whale sharks had gone away after staying in the waters off the southern coast of Gorontalo for some months.

The huge docile fish attracted dozens, even hundreds of visitors to the village every day, allowing the residents to get some windfall profits from the tourism.

Now the village is deserted and residents who earned income from the visitors are at a loss.

“There were at least 91 fishermen who changed jobs from catching fish to renting their boats and relying for their income on the tourism, not to mention the women who opened food stalls and others who became parking attendants,” Yansur Pakaya, the head of tourism group Botubarani, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Since Saturday, the villagers could no longer spot the fish and they did not know the explanation.

Residents spotted only one whale shark near the village. It remained about five minutes and then it was gone.

“We hope they would come back,” Yansur said.

Mahardika Rizki Himawan, a researcher at Whale Shark Indonesia (WSID), said that the fish were of the migrating kind. He said the time when the sharks were gone from Botubarani should be recorded to track the migration pattern.

Mahardika said there was a possibility the fish left the area to search for food because the food in Botubarani was depleted.

Scientists have advised against humans feeding whale sharks after learning some tourist sites feed the fish to keep them from migrating.