The Philippines is an archipelagic country consisting of 7,107 islands with 36,289 kilometers of discontinous coastline. 14 out of 15 administrative regions (or 93%) are coastal regions, 62 out of 80 provinces (or 78%) are coastal provinces, while 832 out of 1,496 municipalities (or 56%) are coastal municipalities. It was estimated that the total coastal population will reach 73.3 million by 2011. Initial awareness efforts through dialogue and lectures targeted staff of the regional offices of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), who has the mandate for the protection of whale sharks in the country through the Fisheries Administrative Order 193 (series of 1998). However, in 2010, through Administrative Order 282, several agencies were included in intensifying the protection of whale sharks, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), local government units (LGUs) and the academe, which become additional agents of the awareness campaign. Posters were distributed in areas visited to make the information more visible in the government offices and coastal areas. A website called Butanding Network (www.butandingnetwork.net) was created, and later converted to a page in the social media, to target people that are active in cyberspace. For the kids, awareness were done through storytelling sessions in schools and some public establishments. Collaborations were established with other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and television shows to act as a resource speaker for whale shark information. 13 of the 14 coastal administrative regions were visited, of which either or both the BFAR and DENR regional offices were informed and encouraged to disseminate whale shark knowledge to their coastal jurisdictions. 15 State Universities and colleges (SUCs) around the country with biology, marine biology, environmental science and/or fisheries courses were encouraged to delve into whale shark research in their coastal waters. Children, ages ranging 6–12, were able to attend story telling sessions on 10 different occasions in 6 different locations. Whale shark related issues were relayed to the public through social media, television shows and documentaries. The archipelagic nature of the Philippines makes it difficult to spread awareness in the country. The government agencies mandated to protect and conserve the whale sharks don't have a structured program for spreading awareness, and do not see conservation as a priority. Whale sharks and other large marine animals were not included or only discussed briefly in biology/marine biology/fisheries courses topics. Social media, television shows and documentaries are great ways to reach a larger audience, however, there is a need to standardize the contents and how it is presented to prevent misinformation of the public.


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