Mexican Caribbean Enacts New Regulations to Protect Whale Shark

whale shark
Whale Shark // Blake Smith/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Tour providers of the Mexican Caribbean are embracing new government regulations to protect the whale shark.

The largest fish in the world is seen in the northern Quintana Roo coast in Holbox, Cancun and Isla Mujeres, where they migrate to consume plankton and small fish yearly.

Strict safety and sustainability guidelines include:


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  • Buddy-system swimming (maximum two people in the water at one time)
  • No touching of whale sharks
  • A minimum six-feet distance policy
  • No flash photography
  • No more than 10 people allowed per boat. 

To prevent future accidents relating to whale sharks, 250 new compliant vessels have been introduced with propeller protectors sourced both locally and from the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, only 80,000 visitors can dive each season. Visitors will be restricted to two dives per person instead of the average six. Under the Mexican Caribbean’s ecotourism standards, this year the Whale Shark Reserve is for the first time managed under the region’s Natural Protected Areas (ANP).

Visitors to the Mexican Caribbean can see the sharks on tours run by trained experts including Eco Colors, which led the area's ecotourism with its first whale shark swims nearly two decades ago. The company has partnered with organizations including World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy. To provide swimmers with expert guidance, Eco Colors tours are led by marine biologists or naturalists.

In Isla Mujeres, which tends to have more whale sharks than any other area in the Mexican Caribbean, Ceviche Tours averages five to 50 sightings on each excursion. To contribute to ecological efforts, Ceviche Tours guides take photos of the whale sharks.

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