The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split

Posted By: Marty

The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 06/02/13 11:25 AM

In Search of The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split

Gladden Split Marine Reserve, Belize, no lucky. Maybe next time we have better luck hunting for Wabbits. Special Thanks to Michelle Foster for making her 4th trip all the way from Texas and still no Whale Shark sighting on a dive and Gaylynn Kapri for participating in the production of this film at Gladden Split.

Full Moon Whale Sharks - Belize from Blue Sphere Media on Vimeo.

In three special locations along the Meso-American Reef, whale sharks gather in large numbers during certain times of the year, creating some of the most impressive marine aggregations found anywhere on Earth. What draws them here? Where do they come from and where do they go? And, what is being done to protect them. Our first stop on the journey takes us to Gladdens Spit, Belize, where 10’s of thousands of snappers spawning attract dozens of whale sharks. This short promo video is a thank you to Isla Marisol resort for all their support!

Whale Sharks in the Tropical Atlantic/Caribbean

January Whale sharks start to arrive off Honduras.

March-May The Bay Islands and Belize attract whale sharks in numbers. Cubera snapper are gathered in spawning aggregations off Belize’s Gladden Spit, and the spawn seems to be what attracts the sharks.

June-September The northern Caribbean is warming up for the spring. Off Holbox Island off the north of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the Bay Islands, Belize and Tobago several hundred whale sharks gather, feeding as bonitos (July and August) and then corals (September) spawn.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 06/08/13 12:29 PM

Deep Sea Encouters at Gladden Spit 2013

In addition to Whale Sharks there much more marine life to see at Gladden Spit & Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. Here's look at recent Whale Shark dive after the May moon.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 06/09/13 11:24 AM

Video: Swimming with whale sharks

Sorry for the nip slip but the rest was too amazing to not post

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 06/14/13 11:35 AM

In search of the elusive Whale Sharks

Internationally, Belize is known for its beautiful snorkel and dive destinations. During the months of April, May and even June, southern Belize is where professional and novice divers head to in search of the elusive whale shark. These gentle sea creatures temporarily visit our waters to feast on a veritable banquet of fish eggs during spawning season. As someone who loves the sea and has never encountered the giant whale shark, I jumped at the opportunity to visit the Placencia Peninsula with my ultimate goal of swimming with these giants of the sea.

Traveling all the way from Ambergris Caye to Placencia requires a lot of coordination and planning, but with a direct flight via Tropic Air, we got to the peninsula with ample time to enjoy a relaxing evening. Following a restful night’s sleep I and my companions (the boss and miss bossy) were ready for the challenge. Our dear friend Anna Williams at Robert’s Grove Dive Shop ensured that we were well taken care of. With gear in hand, Tamara, Mary and I were ready for the experience of a lifetime.

We eagerly jumped into the large, fully equipped boat that awaited us. The vessel had everything, from restroom to freshwater shower, cooler of icy water and even a top deck; nothing else is needed to ensure a good time. We took our place on the upper deck of the vessel ready to enjoy the panorama. If the first 15 minutes was a sign, we were in for a good day! We saw dolphins and eagle rays jump out of the water a mere few feet from each other as we pulled out of the lagoon! Oh yes it would be a great day to be in the water; we could tell. Once we were off the peninsula, we settled in and read up on the whale sharks, learning how to conduct ourselves while they are around. Like humans, whale sharks are curious, so we have to proceed with caution around them.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see LOTS more AWESOME photos in the San Pedro Sun

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 08/01/13 11:59 AM

Belize Whale Shark

An Incredible Day – Swimming with Whale Sharks

Gladden Spit – Placencia, Belize

“A once in a lifetime experience
with the largest fish in the world”

I’m in Placencia, a sleepy little town at the end of a 20 mile long peninsula in Belize’s Caribbean waters. I awake early in the morning and begin preparing for the day’s adventure. My tiny cabana on the beach has no A/C and I’m already dripping with sweat from the hot, humid air. Knowing that today’s journey to swim with whale sharks came with not-so-great odds of success, I tried not to get too excited about what was to come. Little did I know just how exhilarating the day was destined to be.

(watch the video above in HD on youtube here, trust me it’s worth loading in HD!)

Whale sharks are the biggest fish on the planet, however they pose little danger to people as they are slow and docile. Swimming with them is an experience sought after by people all over the world and today was going to be my chance. There are few places in the world you can get in the water with whale sharks; and Placencia is one of them. For a few months each year during the cycle of the full moon, they come to feed in Gladden Spit, an area 20+ miles off the coast.

I headed out with Splash Dive Center, Placencia’s biggest dive operator with the plan to go on two dives in search of spotting them. The boat ride takes around 1-1.5 hours to reach Gladden Spit, the designated zone for spotting them. The captain and crew began searching for signs of them. After picking a spot, we all dove below the surface with great anticipation of what would come. The water is eerily deep since the bottom is not visible to the eye, no reference points exist and there is nothing surrounding you except endless blue water. We go to a depth of 40 feet, followed by 80 feet and see nothing. After swimming for what seemed like hours, we had reached our maximum dive time and surfaced. Having seen nothing but blue water, it was probably the least pleasant diving experience I’ve had to date. Spotting a whale shark in these conditions felt hopeless, and most of the boat’s moral was quickly fading.

We left the whale shark spotting zone for our surface interval (a break between dives) to eat lunch and regroup. Along the way,  a large pod of dolphins swam with the boat and did tricks – our first sign that things may turn around for the day. During our meal the captain spotted large numbers of birds gathering in the water; this was an indicator that whale sharks could be nearby. The engines roared and the chase was on. Everyone’s glum mood was disappearing and began to re-energize with hope. Before we even knew what hit us we could see a dark silhouette below the water.. it was an enormous whale shark! Next came a mad scramble for everyone to jump into the water and meet what they had been waiting anxiously for.

Whale Shark

What came next was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. There I was, in the water with a 40 foot long whale shark just feet away from me. I could literally reach out and touch it! This was the kind of moment that takes your breath away, especially when you’re trying to kick your feet quick enough to keep up with a whale! No less than 2 minutes later and it had swam away, too quick to keep up with. We all swam back to the boat, our bodies shaking with excitement, and minds still processing what we’d just experienced. Those 2 short minutes had made the entire journey worthwhile, but it wasn’t over just yet.

Swimming with Whale Sharks

Having agreed to forgo a second dive, we instead pursued what appeared to be the better odds – spotting whales at the surface to snorkel with them. In total, we plunged in the water and swam with whale sharks on five separate occasions.

Those of you who fear other kinds of sharks might not want to read what’s next. It’s also fairly common to see the ‘other’ kind of sharks during these expeditions and from the first jump in we had two other very curious reef sharks with us; roughly 8-10 feet each. During our third time in the water they came very close to check us out.

Reef Sharks

Reef Sharks

After more than 100 ocean dives this is the closest I’d ever been to a shark this size, and I have to admit it was almost as nerve-wrecking as it was incredibly awesome. We all left the water with all of our limbs in tact…

Swimming with Whale Sharks

Swimming beside these majestic creatures was an unforgettable rush like none other!


SPLASH Whale Shark Promos

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 08/04/13 11:37 AM

VIDEO: Gladden Spit Marine Reserve

The Whale Shark Zone, Gladden Spit is rich with marine life in addition to Whale Shark sighting it makes for a great dive experience.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 10/14/13 10:53 AM

A whale shark glides by like a giant submarine.

Where are all the ladies at?

Last week 70-odd of the world’s whale shark researchers converged on Atlanta for the 3rd International Whale Shark Conference.  It was an unusual meeting in having so many exotic tropical countries represented in such a small group of delegates.  Overall I’m happy to say it was a great success (Sorry AJC, would have linked the original and not this syndicated version, but y’know, pay walls…).  One of the more interesting themes explored at the meeting was the lack of a robust global population estimate for this species.  It’s the biggest fish in the world, how hard can it be to count it?  Well, pretty sharking hard, as it happens.  And yet, some tantalizing bits of evidence were echoed in talks from several locations and these hint to a much larger global population of this species than we are aware of.  Maybe.

1st bit of evidence. Whale sharks spend a lot of time below the surface.  Derrr, I might hear you say, it’s a fish…  Except, it is a fish that spends (or so we thought) a disproportionate amount of time at the surface.  This was based on observation (obviously) and some tagging data, but as the tagging has continued we have learned that in fact they spend much more time out of sight than we thought.  We used to think they were at the surface except for occasional dives, some of which could be very deep, but now we are learning that they may stay deep for significant chunks of their lives, which puts them effectively out of detection range.  And even when they are at the surface, they make such frequent short range dives that subsurface behaviour becomes a big part of their daily pie chart of time use.  This means we need to up the estimates of population by a correction factor that accounts for the portion of time they spend out of sight.  What should that factor be?  Dunno yet, I’ll get back to you after the next conference.

2nd bit of evidence.  Tags and photo ID disagree on connectivity. How groups of whale sharks in different parts of the ocean are connected (or not) is an important question both biologically and for effective conservation measures.  On this matter, two different research techniques disagree somewhat, but they do it in a way that hints at a bigger population.  Satellite tags have shown plenty of evidence of connectivity between different sites in the ocean, sometimes on scales of thousands of miles.  For example, animals tagged in Mexico often show up in Belize, Honduras and the Gulf of Mexico, even Brazil.  And yet, photographic identification databases (the most important is Wildbook for Whale Sharks, formerly ECOCEAN), show surprisingly little connectivity.  Despite over a thousand individual sharks identified in Yucatan Mexico, for example, only a handful have been re-sighted in the other places I just mentioned.  How is this possible if satellite tags show frequent proof positive of connectivity between these locations?  Well, it’s probably because tagging is a “population independent” method, but photo ID is not.  That is, the results of satellite tagging depend only on the movements of the tagged animal and not on the size of the population in either place, whereas the chances of re-sighting a whale shark photographed in one place at another place depends to a large degree on how many sharks there are at the new site.   The lack of photo ID re-sightings suggests that these populations are in fact pretty big, so big that finding that familiar “face in the crowd” actually becomes statistically pretty unlikely.

3rd bit of evidence.  Where are all the ladies at?  The veritable explosion of whale shark science in recent years has been due in large part to the recognition of the phenomenon of whale shark aggregations, or constellations as I now like to call them (you chose it, dear reader).  I’ve written a ton at DSN about the one that occurs in Yucatan Mexico but there are actually at least 12 locations in the world where whale sharks gather in large numbers – always to feed – relatively close to shore.  And those are just the ones we know about.  There are constellations taking place in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, the Seychelles, the Maldives, Mozambique and Tanzania, to name a few, but they all have one thing in common: they are dominated by immature males.  Very consistently so, in fact; nearly all of these selachian sausage-fests show the same 3:1  male:female sex ratio, and the overwhelming majority of animals are immature.  It’s basically an elasmobranch frat party, sans the beer pong.  We know that whale sharks give birth to the genders in a 1:1 split, so you have to ask: where are all the other immature females?  For that matter, where are all the mature animals, both male and female, and where are all the little ones too, under, say, 4 meters?  When you really break it down, we are basing a sizable chunk of whale shark research on one small demographic slice of the whale shark pizza: immature  males.  That’s no way to study a species, and it certainly makes it hard to get a good handle on he global population, when the numbers you are extrapolating from represent such a small segment of the overall population.

Taken together, these bits of evidence suggest that there might be a lot more whale sharks out there than we know of.  Some genetic studies have estimated populations (in the genetic sense this means the number of mature females) between 100,000 and 250,000, which is a LOT more than what we see, especially when you add in the males and immatures of both genders.  But genetic techniques are no substitute for observational data and there we are still sadly lacking.  One one level, this actually gives me a warm inner glow.  I find it both tantalizing and fascinating to think that we are unable to account for perhaps 3/4 of the population of the world’s largest fish.  It’s like the dark matter of the marine megafauna world.  It gives me a strange sense of encouragement that they are out there somewhere, evading our best efforts and proving daily that the ocean still has her fair share of secrets.

There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley


Posted By: Katie Valk

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 10/15/13 12:16 PM

Sponsored by Atlanta Aquarium, who buy whale sharks to exhibit and know they will die quickly in captivity? Foe, not friend of whale sharks
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 03/21/14 11:37 AM

Whalesharks Tom Owens caye

With ReefCI and Blue Reef Adventures

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 04/17/14 11:10 AM

Diving with the Whale Sharks in Belize

Diving with Whale Sharks, the largest living fish on the planet is an incredibly amazing experience and Belize is one of the few places in the world where you can get to experience this. We do have to warn you that in order to go on this expedition you need to book very early. There are limited spots available during the months the Whale Shark passes by, this is to help protect the sharks from being exposed to too much human contact as well as the other marine life in the area.

The average size of a whale shark is about 25 feet long but there have been recordings of ones well over 40 feet long. Don't let their size fool you though, they are gentle creatures that are merely curious and will readily come towards you if they don't feel threatened or harassed. Wouldn't you be curious too?

When can the whale sharks be seen?

The months of April and May are usually the best times to plan your trips to see these amazing creatures. With years of observation some people say the best time is three or four days before and after a full moon or new moon. However they can be seen throughout the summer months as well.

2014 – Whale Shark Dates

  • March 15 – March 26 (Full Moon – March 16)
  • April 14– April 25 (Full Moon – April 15)
  • May 13 – May 24 (Full Moon – May 14)
  • June 12 – June 23 (Full Moon – June 13)

2015 – Whale Shark Dates

  • March 4th – March 15
  • April 3rd – April 14
  •  May 3rd – May 14th (Full Moon – May 4)
  • June 2nd – June 12th (Full Moon – June 2)

The largest concentrations of whale sharks are at Gladden Spit, which is approximately 26 miles, or a 1 hour and a half boat ride off the coast of Placencia where the sharks love to feed. Don't worry about keeping up with them though, that should be pretty easy as they are considered slow swimmers at about 3 miles per hour and they swim by moving their entire bodies from side to side. There is so much to admire about these gentle giants of the sea.

Responsible Tourism

The Gladden Spit which lies within the central area of our Barrier Reef was established as a Marine Reserve to help protect whale sharks from the threats of irresponsible tourism in 2000 and Whale Shark Interaction Regulations has also been implemented. The area alone is simply amazing with over 20 different species of reef fishes passing through in large numbers. So is this adventure for you?


Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 06/29/14 05:26 PM

Belize April 2014

Compilation of footage from diving in Belize April 2014. Sites were Glovers Reef, Gladden Spit, and Lighthouse Reef. Filmed with a 5dmkiii in a Nauticam housing - Canon 16-35mm wide angle lens. All footage filmed in natural light. Diving services provided by Hamanasi Resort.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 04/13/15 08:29 PM

Whale Shark with a Dolphin escort. Placencia, Belize 2015

Snorkeling with Splash Dive shop Placencia Belize April 6th 2015. We were lucky enough to see the first official Whale Shark of the season...escorted by Dolphins.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 08/29/16 11:20 AM


The world's biggest fish travels far and wide.

The world's biggest fish are hungry migrators on a mission, according to a tracking study that mapped whale sharks' long journeys around the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean to a favourite feeding hot spot off the Yucatan Peninsula.

And one whale shark's incredible 7,200-kilometre swim could even help solve the long-standing mystery of where whale sharks give birth—an event no scientist has ever seen.

The largest-ever study of whale shark migrations, nine years in the making, shows that the hundreds of school bus-sized animals that feed in a plankton-saturated stretch off the Mexican coast come from far and wide.

The gentle giants—which can reach up to 12 metres or longer in length, and weigh an average of 5 tons—use mouth filters to feed on the tiny plankton and small fish or eggs.

A free-diving photographer encounters the world's largest fish, a giant whale shark, off of the coast of Mexico [Image: Mauricio handler, National Geographic Stock]

Whale sharks are known to gather at a dozen major feeding locations around the world, from Western Australia and Indonesia to Belize. But between May and September, the waters of Mexico's Quintana Roo state, on the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula, draw far more animals than other spots and attract an estimated 800 or more in a given season.

"From this one feeding area, these animals spread out over vast parts of the region—throughout the Gulf of Mexico, down into the Caribbean Sea, through the Straits of Florida up into the open Atlantic Ocean," said study co-author Robert Hueter, director of the Centre for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory.

"We found animals coming back for as many as six years at a time. Clearly they are returning to this site to fuel up on the rich food that's there to carry them through much of the rest of the year."

ANALYSING THE DATA The reliable numbers and accessibility of whale sharks at the site prompted Hueter in 2003 to begin accumulating the nine years of tagging and satellite tracking data that formed the backbone of the recent study by the Mote Marine Lab and Mexico's National Commission of Natural Protected Areas.

The amount of time invested, and data collected, by the study's authors is nothing short of phenomenal, said whale shark researcher Mike Maslanka, the Head of Department of Nutrition Science at Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

"The summer work we do [at feeding aggregations] is just a tiny snapshot in the life of a whale shark," he said. "These tagging efforts allow us to discover more about what happens when they aren't gathering to feed in the summer. Without the tagging we wouldn't even have a glimpse into that part of their lives. That's the really cool part of this study."

Maslanka added, "These things are so big, to think that they 'disappear' is pretty amazing. It's the largest fish in the ocean and we don't know where it goes for six months of the year."

(The whale shark research was partially funded by a grant from the National Geographic Society.)


Among more than 800 individuals studied, one animal stood out.

A mature and presumably pregnant female called Rio Lady was tagged and then tracked along an odyssey of some 7,800 kilometres, which ended when her tag came off after five months of observation.

"She just kept going," Hueter said. "She swam out between Brazil and Africa until she passed the Equator, and that's where her tag came off."

But her journey, and other whale shark sightings in the remote region, could help answer a question that has plagued whale shark researchers for years: Where are all the females? Quintana Roo is more than 70 percent male, and other global aggregations show the same gender imbalance.

"You can't have a stable population with that many males. You don't see that in nature," Hueter said.

"The females have to be somewhere, and we hypothesize that mature, pregnant females undergo long migrations to the middle of the ocean, near seamounts or remote islands ... and that's where they give birth," Hueter explained. "In coastal zones where the feeding aggregations are, their young-which are less than two feet long at birth—might be subject to higher predation."

He added, "We feel good about the hypothesis, but it's out there to be tested. So now we'll have to see if it's proven right in the years to come."

Few very young whale sharks have been seen in nature. And discovering where the animals give birth, Maslanka said, is "the holy grail of whale shark biology."

But the story isn't as simple as finding out what area or areas they use to pup. The find would lead to greater understanding of basic whale shark biology, much of which is still lacking because so much of the animals' lives are lived out of our sight.

"And from the perspective of ecosystem management, we'd want to make sure that area was protected over time so they could continue to pup in an unmolested state," he said.


Using this study and others to determine where the animals travel, feed, and reproduce is key to protection of a species that is becoming increasingly beloved by ecotourists and others.

"It's the largest fish in the ocean, and it's a real representative of healthy marine ecosystems," Maslanka said. "It can be a real flagship species for protecting the oceans, especially in the band that stretches around the Equator."

But as Hueter's group makes clear, conservation of the far-roaming animals will take international cooperation because whales spotted in one area may depend, in other seasons, on resources located many hundreds of miles away.

And while mating remains a mystery, whale shark genetics suggest that animals swap genes among far-flung geographic locales, and that only two large metapopulations exist—one in the Atlantic and another in the Indo-Pacific.

Each population requires management on a broad scale. The species as a whole is currently listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and is still hunted for fins and oil in some Asian waters.

Hueter said he's encouraged that whale sharks can be protected by the process that's already begun, notably in his study area, with the Mexican government's designation of a Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve in the feeding aggregation grounds.

There's more work to be done, he cautioned, but the species definitely warrants the effort.

"This is the largest fish that has ever lived, and it's charismatic," Hueter said. "It poses no danger to people who love to see it and swim with it in the wild. It might be the largest animal on the planet that you can be close to in it's natural environment and not be in any danger whatsoever."

National Geographic

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 08/30/16 08:29 PM

It's International Whale Shark Day! This day celebrates these remarkable gentle giants. Whale sharks can grow to 45 feet and weigh in at 24,000 pounds. Belize is blessed to have these seasonal visitors visit us! Photos by Tony Rath Photography and Tour Guide Harry Neal

Click photos for more pictures!

Whale Sharks and Diving

Whale shark encounters have become very popular over the last few years. These school bus size fish are the largest in the world. While not a whale, they are bigger than many species of whales. Among other locations Mexico, Australia and the Philippines are the leader in whale shark encounters.

Snorkeling & Freediving with Whale Sharks

Whale shark encounters are primarily done while snorkeling or Freediving. Many locations, such as the three mentioned, prohibit scuba diving with them. The encounters are generally shallow waters where the whale sharks come to feed on plankton and small fish. Whale Shark tourism is likely to be worth over US$42 million annually, and indicates that the industry is growing fast as a tourism niche. Some of the most popular whale shark destinations have an entire tourism industry built around the whale sharks. One of the benefits of this increased interest is that in many places those that used to hunt whale sharks are now earning more showing them off. They have become more valuable to them alive then dead.

One of these locations that has greatly benefited from this Eco-tourism with whale sharks is Donsol, Sorsogon in the Bicol region of Luzon, Philippines. In the late 1990s, the local fisherman knew little about the Butanding, the local name for whale sharks, that visited from November to June. The Philippine government made fishing for them illegal and stopped a massive export market to Taiwan and China. The Donsol River, which is rich in plankton and krill, flows into the shallow Donsol Bay. A favorite foods of whale sharks they come here for the nourishment and to birth their young. Around 1999, the news that the whale sharks were consistently visiting Donsol Bay brought visitors by the hundreds. The national and local governments as well as local business established a code of conduct for interacting with these gentle giants. International environmental groups and foreign governments provided technical and financial assistance.

The resulting program has been duplicated in other regions of the world. Scuba diving is prohibited but snorkeling is allowed. Each individual wanting to experience a swim with the whale sharks must first attend a orientation session that includes a video. The rules are explained and an overview of what to expect is included. A Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) accompanies each boat to insure each boat and all of the guest follow the rules. In Donsol Bay the snorkelers are put into the water near a animal and the boat moves slowly away. If the swimmers remain still it is likely that the whale shark will approach. It not uncommon at this site for a snorkeler to see four or five animals in a single encounter.

Here is a summary of the Donsol Bay rules:

  • Do not touch or ride the whale shark.
  • Do not restrict the movement of the shark or impede its natural path.
  • The recommended distance from the whale shark is 3 meters from the tail.
  • Do not use flash photography.
  • Do not use scuba scooters, jet skis or any motorized underwater propulsion.
  • A maximum of 6 swimmers per shark.
  • Only one boat per whale shark.

8.5 meters long female Whale Shark photograph by Olivier ROUX

Scuba Diving With Whale Sharks

Outside of the areas where whale shark encounter tours happen, diver near by may still encounter them in a course of a dive. When this does happen divers should still follow the first five rules above to get the most out of their dive and so not to also injure the whale sharks.

There are a few destinations that scuba divers are likely to find these huge animals while on a dive that do not offer snorkeling opportunities. Galapagos Islands is one destination that comes to mind. It is frequently said that the bubbles from scuba divers cause the whale sharks to move away. The high density of marine life helps reduces the impact of a diver being in the area. With all of the movement in the area it is easy for the whale shark to overlook the exhaust of the divers regulators.

There is another location where diving with whale sharks is common and that is Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve of Belize. While whale shark encounter do happen at times in the Caribbean destinations, they are mostly migratory with few staying in any given area very long. Gladden Spit seems to be the destination for many of these migratory animals. Each year from April to June they stay in the area in large numbers. Three different species of snapper: Mutton snappers, Cubera snappers and Dog snappers aggravate to the Gladden Spit each year to spawn. They release their eggs and sperm into the waters around the period of the full moon. The whale sharks find these very tasty and are very active eating what they can.

At Gladden Spit the water is deeper than most of the destinations that offer snorkeling with whale sharks. Also the divers bubbles are not something that scares away the animals, in fact they help draw them nearer. The snapper spawn at night near the surface and retreat to deeper water during the day. The whale sharks follows their program staying a little deeper. Scuba divers swim down to 60 to 80 feet and level out to wait for any whale sharks. It is believed that the divers bubbles causes the whale shark to think that there is a spawning in progress and they will come to investigate.

The whale shark guidelines are similar to the list above with some variations. Divers are allowed to dive to 80 feet and the last dive must start before 4:30pm. These rules are designed so that divers do not interfere with the snapper spawning cycle. Violations of the rules can result in finds as high as $5,000 per infraction.

Whale Shark Conservation – Is It Too Little Too Late?

The increase awareness that these Eco-tourism activities have created has helped protected these gentle giants. However, is it too little too late?

The IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 is to be held in Hawaii from 1 to 10 September. An updated IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, including assessments of many species will be presented during that conference. There will be three major changes to the list. Whale sharks and winghead sharks will be upgraded from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered” and Bornean orangutans will be upgraded to Critically Endangered, just one step from extinction in the wild.

The whale shark population is estimated to have decreased by over 50% in the last three generations (75 years). Whale shark population is mostly within the Indo-Pacific region with 75% of the world wide numbers found there. That overall area has seen a 63% reduction with some local areas seeing over a 90% reduction. The smaller population in the Atlantic, including the Caribbean Sea has seen a smaller reduction of around 30%. Still, researchers and long time divers in Belize have noted fewer individual whale sharks.

Many countries already have laws that protect whale sharks and some have laws that protect all endangered species. The red list is generally what most countries use. This sad declaration what the whale shark is now endangered will add protection in some countries. There are a few countries such as Oman and China that still allow fishing of whale sharks. Hopefully, the increased status will help convince these countries to protect whale sharks.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 08/28/17 07:58 PM

Whale Shark Dive Belize 'Virtual Dive Highlights'

Gladden Spit, Silk Cayes Marine Reserve Belize. SEA Belize (Southern Environmental Association) Sanctions Enforced~ $10,000 fine for touching a Whale Shark, Max Depth Restriction 80ft , 12 Guest Max Per Boat.
Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 09/17/17 12:34 PM

Video: The Magical Whale Shark Rendezvous at Gladden Spit

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 01/20/18 12:32 PM

Video: Feast of the Giant Sharks

Whale Sharks in Belize at Gladen Spit, by Carol Farneti Foster

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 06/09/18 12:09 PM

Secret to whale shark hotspots

A study has uncovered the secret to why endangered whale sharks gather on mass at just a handful of locations around the world.

The new insights into the habits of the world's largest fish will help inform conservation efforts for this mysterious species, say the researchers.

Large groups of whale sharks congregate at only around 20 locations off the coasts of countries including Australia, Belize, the Maldives and Mexico. Why the sharks, which can reach more than 60 feet in length, choose these specific locations has long perplexed researchers and conservationists.

The new study, by researchers at the University of York in collaboration with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP), has found that the shark "aggregation sites" show many common characteristics -- they are all in areas of warm, shallow water in close proximity to a sharp sea-floor drop off into deep water.

The researchers suggest that these sites provide the ideal setting for the filter-feeding sharks to search for food in both deep water and the warm shallows, where they can bask near the surface and warm up their huge bodies.

Supervising author of the study, Dr Bryce Stewart from the Environment Department at the University of York, said: "Sharks are ectotherms, which means they depend on external sources of body heat. Because they may dive down to feed at depths of more than 1,900 metres, where the water temperature can be as cold as 4 degrees, they need somewhere close by to rest and get their body temperature back up.

"Steep slopes in the sea bed also cause an upwelling of sea currents that stimulate plankton and small crustaceans such as krill that the whale sharks feed on."

However, these perfectly contoured locations are not without their drawbacks due to human activity. Sharks swimming in shallow waters close to the surface are vulnerable to boat strikes caused by vessels ranging from large ships to tourist boats hoping to spot them.

Lead author of the paper Joshua Copping, who carried out the research while studying for a masters in Marine Environmental Management at the University of York, and is now working on a PhD at the University of Salford, said: "Individual whale sharks can be identified by their unique pattern of spots and stripes which allows researchers to follow specific sharks that visit these aggregation sites. That means we have a good idea of the rate and extent of injuries at each of these locations and sadly it's generally quite high."

Boat strikes, along with accidental trapping in fishing nets, and the targeted hunting of the species for their fins and meat, have contributed to an alarming decrease in global whale shark numbers in the past 75 years.

By highlighting what makes these areas important to the whale shark, the researchers hope this study will also highlight the importance of managing these areas carefully in order to minimise human impact on the shark's habitat and behaviour.

Dr Stewart added: "The more we know about the biology of whale sharks the more we can protect them and this research may help us to predict where whale sharks might move to as our climate changes.

"Not only do we have an ethical responsibility to conserve this miraculous animal for future generations, but they are also extremely valuable to local people on the coastlines where they gather, which are often in developing countries. While a whale shark can be worth as much as $250,000 USD dead, alive it can provide more than $2 Million USD over the course of its life span."

Co-author James Hancock from MWSRP added; "Whale sharks can travel huge distances around the globe and the existence of such a small number of known aggregation sites suggested there had to be something about the depth and shape of the underwater terrain in these areas that makes them appealing.

"It's very exciting to have narrowed down some of the key reasons why whale sharks choose these specific areas. However, the main focus of this research was on costal aggregations which are largely made up of young sharks -- exactly where the rest of the demographic hang out is still unclear."

University of York. "Secret to whale shark hotspots." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2018.

Posted By: Marty

Re: The Reclusive Whale Shark, Gladden Split - 02/09/20 12:36 PM

You never know what you might find in the sea. AMAZING whale shark with snorkelers off Ambergris Caye.

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