Land team boss backs whale sharks project

Monday April 22 2013

By BOZO JENJE [email protected]

The National Land Commission has thrown its weight behind a whale sharks project in Kwale County despite opposition from conservation groups.

Two weeks ago, Seaquarium Ltd announced plans to set up a project in which whale sharks would be captured and enclosed at Waa for public display.

This, they argued, would attract tourists and benefit the community. The project would also be a way of conserving the sea creature, whose numbers are dwindling due to illegal hunting.

But the plans sparked outcry among conservationists who opposed it, saying the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) raised critical questions on the welfare of the animal while in captivity.

Coastal Oceans Research in Development in the Indian Ocean coordinator David Obura said there was no evidence to show that whale sharks were hunted or their numbers were declining.

“These arguments for the project do not add up and the concerns of Seaquarium are not valid, “he said.

Born Free Foundation Conservation manager Aaron Nicholas also asked the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to stop the project on grounds that Kenya earned enough from wildlife tourism.

But the land commission chairman, Dr Mohammed Swazuri, said the concerns of two organisations were baseless and challenged them to come up with alternative projects to alleviate poverty in the area.

“If they are genuine in their concern, they should tell us what benefits they have brought to the community after all those years of activism,” Dr Swazuri said and explained that the Whale Shark Project, which will be set up on a rocky area, would not cause any environmental dangers.

“The perception is born out of ignorance. This kind of project is generating revenue in Japan and US and can change lives,” he said.