Cancun, Q.R. – Dozens of local tourist agencies are waiting for whale shark touring permits so they can begin offering tours.
With the beginning of whale shark season a few days away, dozens of tour companies around Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Contoy, Holbox and the Riviera Maya continue to wait for their operating permits. Whale shark season is one of the most popular tourist activities for the region, however, the concern this year lies more in the lack of monitoring.
Previous years have seen a cut in marine monitoring officials with a decrease in federal Marine Park staff, and this year is expected to be even more worrisome with the additional cut on an already low supply of qualified personnel. The concern is the lack of officials needed to confirm that the whale shark tourism sector takes care to perform the activity properly and within the designated natural areas.
Last year, numerous companies received their permits as late as 15 days after the beginning of the short whale shark season, forcing them to cancel reservations. Last year, the lack of monitoring by federal agencies such as Semarnat, Profepa and Conanp meant many tour companies left park boundaries in search of whale sharks. This imposes a risk not only to tourists, but also endangers the lives of the whale sharks.
Officials from the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas acknowledged that there was a downsizing of 33 percent for supervising officials for the Marine Parks and for Contoy National Park. They say this year, there is one inspector who is also responsible for arranging tours as well as monitoring the companies.