ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO, Feb 02, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Celebrating the beauty and culture of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and championing the need to preserve a fragile marine ecosystem, ecotourism travel agency Ceviche Tours and the Isla Mujeres Department of Tourism announce the Fifth Annual Whale Shark Festival, a community extravaganza that showcases the achievements, traditions and environmental splendor of Isla Mujeres.
The Festival will be held June 15-17, 2012 in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Last year thousands flocked to the family-friendly Whale Shark Festival, which offers guests an opportunity to participate in ecotourism adventures such as swimming with whale sharks, the largest fish in the ocean and an endangered species; swimming with sailfish; join in traditional dancing performed by local troupes; exploring ancient Mayan ruins and much more.
Proceeds from the Whale Shark Festival will be donated to Amigos de Isla Contoy, a 501c3 non-profit organization that is involved in the education of the local population on sustainable marine conservation and ecotourism.
Sustainable Ecotourism The Whale Shark Festival is an effort to raise awareness for the need to preserve the area's marine ecosystem. Isla Mujeres is part of the second largest barrier reef on the planet, and serves as the nursery of the Caribbean and the migratory path of whale sharks, sea turtles, water fowl and game fishes.
"Sustainable ecotourism engages guests in the effort to preserve the culture of Isla Mujeres, their way of life and the marine environment," said John Vater, who co-founded Ceviche Tours with his wife, Adriana, and longtime friend and Isla Mujeres native Luis "Cuco" Refugio and his family.
Swim with 200+ Whale Sharks Kicking off the Festival will be the whale shark bloom, when hundreds of these gentle giants come together to swim in a group near the coast of Isla Mujeres. As many as 1,400 whale sharks may make their way through the waters north of Isla Mujeres every summer according to Dr. Robert Hueter, Director of the Center for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory and scheduled speaker at the 2012 Whale Shark Festival.
The Isla Mujeres Tourism Department Director, Eyder Jahil Hoth Perez, stated, "Through this event tourism awareness about the whale shark has increased over the last several years, especially regarding the need to protect all our species and natural resources. Ecotourism-related activities have also been creating a new culture of respect and care for our natural resources in the new generations of islanders. In this, children have been playing a very important role toward changing behaviors that were unsustainable in the long term."
Exciting Activities for the Whole Family Guests of the Festival can participate in a wide array of activities:
Swimming with Whale Sharks -- Guests can swim with whale sharks and join a conservation effort spearheaded by ECOCEAN, a non-profit organization that maintains the global Whale Shark Photo-Identification Library, a visual database of the unique markings, or spots, that can identify individual whale sharks and track them. Guests can add their underwater photos of the whale sharks to ECOCEAN's global database.
Fun for Families -- The Festival will feature many educational children's activities about environmental conservation.
Academic Seminars and Film Showcase Scientists from around the world will attend to present a series of Academic Seminars on marine biology, sustainable ecotourism and Mayan architecture. Renowned marine biologist Rafael de la Parra, who discussed his groundbreaking research, "An Unprecedented Aggregation of Whale Sharks, Rhincodon typus, in Mexican Coastal Waters of the Caribbean Sea" at last year's Whale Shark Festival, will again be speaking and also organizing the 2012 panel of distinguished speakers.