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#226614 - 01/12/07 05:38 PM Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks
Marty Offline

Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks Return to Belize
Jan 12, 07 | 12:11 pm

PLACENCIA, Belize, January, 2007 - Ever wonder what it’s like to swim among one of the world’s largest creatures? Each Spring, in the Central American country of Belize, whale sharks – weighing in as much as 20 tons and measuring up to 65 feet in length – emerge from the depths of the Caribbean Sea off the southern coast of Belize where Scuba divers and snorkelers relish in the rare opportunity to swim alongside these gentle giants.

“We are fortunate that these magnificent creatures seasonally return to Belize’s warm
waters,” said Director of Tourism Tracy Panton. “Visitors to the beautiful country of Belize have the unique opportunity to get up close to the curious whale sharks and experience this incredible natural phenomenon.”

Whale sharks are characterized by their white, spotted back, two dorsal fins and of course, gigantic size. Although their enormity may be daunting, these docile fish are docile and feed on plankton. In fact, it is the annual spawning of the cubera snapper during the months of March, April, May and June that brings the whale sharks to the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve just beyond Belize’s barrier reef.

Numerous resorts and dive operators in the Stann Creek District of Belize offer special packages and excursions for guests looking to dive or snorkel with whale sharks in their natural environment. Whale shark encounters must be timed accordingly with the full moon phases to coincidence with the aggregating snapper.
Hamanasi Dive & Adventure Resort’s PADI operated dive shop located in Hopkins, Belize offers a two-tank whale shark dive for $190 per person. In Placencia, the PADI operated Seahorse Dive Shop’s Brian Young is the founder of the Whale Shark Expeditions and boasts over 24 years of diving experience for optimal sightings. A two-tank dive with Young and his dive masters costs $150 per person. For more information visit www.hamanasi.com or www.belizescuba.com .

About Belize
Snuggled between Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south, relaxed, English-speaking Belize is only a two-hour plane ride from the continental United States. Adventure into a land rich in natural beauty and steeped in the magic of its Maya past. Renowned for pristine waters, exotic marine and wildlife, lush unspoiled landscapes, and superb diving, Belize is Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret.

#226621 - 01/12/07 06:39 PM Re: Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks [Re: Marty]
DB Offline
Are there any reliable whale shark tours done out of San Pedro??

#226633 - 01/12/07 08:59 PM Re: Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks [Re: DB]
scubawalk Offline
Whale sharks transit the area around San Pedro on their way to Glading Split off Placentia. You might find one off San Pedro but the odds are against it. The boat trip down to where they are going to be would take days from San Pedro. I went with Brian several years ago and had great success. Well worth the trip.
"Just another Day in Paradise"

#226650 - 01/12/07 11:45 PM Re: Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks [Re: scubawalk]
Marty Offline
January 13, 2007
Death of a Rare Shark Leaves Scientists and Public Grasping

ATLANTA, Jan. 12 — To those who questioned the propriety of keeping the giant whale shark in captivity, the philanthropist Bernie Marcus liked to say that in his aquarium here, the shark, the world’s largest fish, would also be the world’s most pampered.

But a specialized diet of krill and fortified gelatin, a 6.2-million-gallon fish tank and state-of-the-art medical care were not enough to save Ralph, one of the four graceful, dappled whale sharks that were star attractions at the lavish $290 million Georgia Aquarium that opened here to great fanfare just over a year ago.

Ralph, an adolescent whale shark 22 feet long, died mysteriously on Thursday, reopening questions about whether whale sharks, a species about which little is known, should ever be taken from the wild.

Jeffery S. Swanagan, the chief executive of the Georgia Aquarium, said that none of the four whale sharks — the others are Norton, Alice and Trixie — had shown signs of stress. “The only thing we saw is that occasionally they wouldn’t eat,” Mr. Swanagan said. “But it was never serious.”

As some 20 veterinarians, pathologists and biologists began a necropsy on Ralph, his online guest book swelled with affectionate messages from fans. Many of them had never heard of a whale shark before the aquarium, which has had four million visitors in its 14 months of existence, became the first outside Asia to exhibit them.

“We will miss you, Ralph,” wrote the “Kinard kids” of Oxford, Ga. “To be so big and to be so nice at the same time.”

Bob Roberts of Atlanta was nostalgic: “I remember when we first met and you swam by me — our eyes met — and it was like we had known each other our entire lives.”

Ralph was the second highly publicized attraction at the aquarium to die this month; a beluga whale that had been seriously ill died on Jan. 2.

Whale sharks, which can exceed 50 feet in length, are rare. Little is known about their social habits, migration patterns or even their life span and food intake.

“Relative to other species, sharks are very poorly understood,” said Robert Hueter, a pre-eminent shark expert who was attending the necropsy, and whose research in the wild is partly financed by the Georgia Aquarium. “Relative to other species of sharks, the whale shark is even more poorly understood.”

Dr. Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., said he had not yet seen any obvious pathology. “There’s been no ‘aha’ moment yet,” he said. “It’s always possible that we’ll never know.”

Scientists are beguiled by the whale shark’s habit of diving deep into frigid water, as deep as 4,000 feet, Dr. Hueter said. No one knows if they are seeking food, trying to rid themselves of parasites, cooling off, resting or reveling.

But scientists like Rachel Graham, who has researched whale sharks in Belize, point out that such dives cannot be replicated in a fish tank.

“Let us continue our push for global whale shark conservation so that populations may be protected and in some areas restored following overfishing,” Dr. Graham wrote in a mass e-mail message to her colleagues in August 2005, criticizing the Atlanta exhibit. “Global protection will then render obsolete the excuse of procuring whale sharks for aquariums in lieu of fishing and leave these animals where they belong, in the open ocean.”

Marie Levine, the executive director of the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, N.J., initially opposed the whale shark exhibit in Atlanta because the aquarium intended to take the sharks from a wildlife sanctuary, and because so many whale sharks have died in captivity in Asia.

But Ms. Levine softened when the aquarium bought juveniles, which are more adaptable, from Taiwanese fishermen, who can take a limited number each year, most of which are destined for the dining table.

“It was really a rescue,” she said, “and they certainly gave those animals excellent care.”

#226706 - 01/13/07 03:11 PM Re: Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
haven't they seen what putting people in cages does to people?

#226724 - 01/13/07 08:57 PM Re: Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks [Re: Marty]
collyk Offline
“It was really a rescue,” she said, “and they certainly gave those animals excellent care.”

Umm. These sharks were taken from the wild in Taiwan. Rescue?
Belize Wedding Photography

#226805 - 01/14/07 09:43 PM Re: Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks [Re: collyk]
Marty Offline
Many in Belize were outraged when Friends of Nature in Placencia even contemplated selling off one of Belize's whale sharks to the Georgia Aquarium. The uproar killed the deal, and the Georgia
Aquarium acquired its shark elsewhere.

Well, the whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium has died.

#226823 - 01/15/07 09:19 AM Re: Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks [Re: Marty]
collyk Offline
Sadly, a similar amount of uproar didn't stop them setting up the 'swim with dolphins' for cruise tourists place though. I think the best quote I read about this was from someone who had worked with dolphins in captivity throughout her career. She said 'there is no such thing as a good captive dolphin programme'. She had seen some that claimed to be the best. Anyone here been there?
Belize Wedding Photography

#227288 - 01/18/07 06:32 PM Re: Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks [Re: collyk]
I'm with Collyk. That project was outrageous.

#227303 - 01/18/07 07:46 PM Re: Swim with the World's Largest Fish - Whale Sharks [Re: ]
Axeman Offline
Yes..Been to the one in Cozamel, which also produced 2 babies which I got to hang out with. All the dolphins were well adjusted and active. As far as I know, none ever died or got critically ill. I held 2 in my arms and have never had such an intamate time with another species in my life.
As far a Nurse Sharks..to little is known about them to keep them closed up. MHO
Life May Be a Beach...I prefer Reefs...

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