South Ari Atoll: the sharks are back, but so are the tourist boats
Most of the sharks encountered by the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme team are known individuals, however, a few have been new sharks.
One individual is a new female, only the fifth female in the MWSRP database. She measured 4.3 metres and hung around for a very long and interactive swim with six members of the research team.
Unfortunately the reef is also busier than ever with the unregulated tourism that flocks to the whale shark 'Hotspot'.
Since the recent designation of the area as the largest MPA in the Maldives, nothing has changed, infact it has inevitably become more busy, increasing habitat disturbance as a major threat to the animals.
The tour industry have not been made aware of the rules or regulations within the MPA and boats (sometimes 10 at a time) consistently converge on any shark that is spotted. So the madness is set to continue until such times as the government makes the necessary communications with the stakeholders.