LIVE VIDEO: Live Newscast    Watch
 

Whale sharks need protection

10:04 AM, Aug 22, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

Video: Raw Video: Whale shark swimming off Florida coast

Photo courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory.

 


 


Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- International cooperation will be necessary to preserve the world's whale sharks, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

The paper is the result of the largest scientific whale shark study conducted, a nine-year tagging project off the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula by researchers from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota and Mexico's Domino Project (scientists and tour guides who study whale sharks and regulate tourist activities around the animals).

Because whale sharks, the biggest fish on the planet, grow slowly, mature late, swim slowly and are docile, the species is susceptible to overexploitation; whale sharks have been protected in the United States since 1998 and are classified as "Vulnerable" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

Every spring and summer, hundreds of whale sharks arrive off the Yucatan to feed on massive plankton blooms - the largest known whale shark feeding aggregation.

From 2003 through 2011, Mote and Domino Project researchers put conventional external tags on 813 whale sharks; they also photographed 956 whale sharks to document each fish's unique pattern of spots and scars and placed satellite tags on 35.

Eighty-three of the conventionally tagged sharks were identified in the study area during at least one summer after they were tagged, and 388 of the photographed shark were observed in years after they were first identified.

"This is an important part of the results because it shows these animals are coming back to the area to feed," said the study's principal investigator Bob Hueter, director of Mote's Center for Shark Research. "They're not just wandering around aimlessly in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, following whatever is out there. They navigate to specific points for things like feeding and breeding."

Conventionally tagged whale sharks were also seen by recreational fishermen and divers beyond the Yucatan, including a 22-foot male tagged July 6, 2008, and identified 98 days later off St. Petersburg. That shark was then observed off the Yucatan during the summers of 2010 and 2011.

International cooperation will be necessary to preserve the world's whale sharks, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

The paper is the result of the largest scientific whale shark study conducted, a nine-year tagging project off the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula by researchers from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota and Mexico's Domino Project (scientists and tour guides who study whale sharks and regulate tourist activities around the animals).

Because whale sharks, the biggest fish on the planet, grow slowly, mature late, swim slowly and are docile, the species is susceptible to overexploitation; whale sharks have been protected in the United States since 1998 and are classified as "Vulnerable" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

Every spring and summer, hundreds of whale sharks arrive off the Yucatan to feed on massive plankton blooms - the largest known whale shark feeding aggregation.

From 2003 through 2011, Mote and Domino Project researchers put conventional external tags on 813 whale sharks; they also photographed 956 whale sharks to document each fish's unique pattern of spots and scars and placed satellite tags on 35.

Eighty-three of the conventionally tagged sharks were identified in the study area during at least one summer after they were tagged, and 388 of the photographed shark were observed in years after they were first identified.

"This is an important part of the results because it shows these animals are coming back to the area to feed," said the study's principal investigator Bob Hueter, director of Mote's Center for Shark Research. "They're not just wandering around aimlessly in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, following whatever is out there. They navigate to specific points for things like feeding and breeding."

Conventionally tagged whale sharks were also seen by recreational fishermen and divers beyond the Yucatan, including a 22-foot male tagged July 6, 2008, and identified 98 days later off St. Petersburg. That shark was then observed off the Yucatan during the summers of 2010 and 2011.


Most Watched Videos