tagged w/ whale shark
Whale sharks, the biggest fish in the sea, may be the latest victims of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this week that four of the polka-dotted creatures, stretching about 40 feet long, had been spotted swimming alongside oil in search of food.
Since whale sharks are filter feeders -- scooping up plankton and small fish with their gaping mouths as they swim just beneath the surface -- scientists are concerned they will swallow large amounts of toxic oil and die.
"The problem is that these are surface feeding animals and if they digest the oil they will sink and we will not know how many are dying," said Dr. Eric Hoffmayer, who has studied whales in the northern Gulf for the University of Southern Mississippi.
"I don't think there is any question we're going to lose whale sharks to this oil spill. That's why we need to tag these sharks so that we can determine how they are impacted by the oil," Hoffmayer told Reuters.
Hoffmayer spent three days on the Gulf where he and other researchers discovered an extraordinary gathering of more than 100 feeding whale sharks about 90 miles south of Grand Isle, La.
The site where they were feeding was about 60 miles west of BP Plc's blown-out Macondo well off the Louisiana coast and the gathering of whale sharks was among the largest seen in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Hoffmayer said.
In addition to the danger inherent in swallowing oil, it could cause untold harm to the giant but vulnerable fish when they force the water they feed on, after it is sucked into their mouths, to filter out through their gills.
Hoffmayer and a team of marine scientists came up with a plan Thursday to tag the sharks so they can track their movements and hopefully find out if oil is being digested.
One of the big problems, he said, is that there is no known way of steering the whale sharks away from oil contaminated areas of the Gulf.
Marine scientists in Mississippi are hoping to save other species from the oil, which breached Mississippi's mainland this week for the first time.
http://www.canada.com/technology/environment/Gulf spill threatens world largest fish/3236621/story.html
http://www.canada.com/technology/environment/3236622.bin?size=620x400Whale sharks, the biggest fish in the sea, may be the latest victims of the massive... more
A landmark agreement to protect shark species threatened with extinction was reached today by over 100 countries signed up to a United Nations-supported wildlife treaty, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The 113 countries that are party to the UNEP-administered Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) agreed to prohibit the hunting, fishing and deliberate of killing sharks species covered in an appendix to the CMS – the great white, basking, whale, porbeagle, spiny dogfish, shortfin and longfin mako sharks.
UNEP noted that over-fishing, fisheries by-catch, illegal trade, habitat destruction, depletion of prey species, pollution with a high risk of mercury intoxication, boat strikes and the impact of climate change on the marine environment all seriously threaten sharks.
Gestation periods of up to 22 months, a life expectancy of up to 100 years, relatively low reproductive rates, migratory patterns, and low natural mortality combine to make the protection of some species and their habitat difficult and make sharks particularly vulnerable with little chance to recover if over-fished.
In addition, whale shark meat has been increasingly considered as a high-grade, exotic product since the late 1980s, and according to TRAFFIC – a wildlife trade monitoring network – prices have skyrocketed to $7,000 for 2,000 kilograms in Taiwan, for example.
According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), up to 900,000 tons of sharks have been caught every year for the last two decades, and calculating for illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing and missing data, the actual catch figure is estimated to be at least twice as high.
Studies show that shark populations collapsed in both in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Mediterranean Sea by 90 per cent, and by 75 per cent in the north-western Atlantic Ocean within 15 years, said UNEP.A landmark agreement to protect shark species threatened with extinction was reached... more
Somewhere around us in the incredible turquoise and blue-black waters of the Maldives, the planet's biggest fish is swimming by.
Reaching lengths of up to 20m and sporting a dramatic checkerboard pattern of bright polka dots, you'd think that spotting a whale shark would be easy.
But we've been peering into the water for three hours now and so far, nothing.
We're cruising up and down a known shark aggregation zone, a stretch of the Indian Ocean outside the island necklace of South Ari atoll, one of 26 coral formations that make up the Maldives archipelago.Somewhere around us in the incredible turquoise and blue-black waters of the Maldives,... more
Scientists studying the elusive and endangered whale shark are excited after one of them was able to grab a sample of fresh whale shark poo for the first time. The find, as well as the footage of the shark making the, er, poo, has been labeled 'scientific gold', as it holds many clues to its feeding habits.Scientists studying the elusive and endangered whale shark are excited after one of... more
Dubai: Gulf News is asking readers to support the campaign to free Sammy the whale shark by wearing a badge.
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The whale shark inhabits the world's tropical and warm-temperate oceans. While thought to be primarily pelagic, seasonal feeding aggregations of the sharks occur at several coastal sites. Though it is often seen offshore, it has also been found closer to shore, entering lagoons or coral atolls, and near the mouths of estuaries and rivers. Its range is generally restricted to about ±30 ° latitude. It is capable of diving to depths of over 700 metres (2,300 ft). The whale shark is generally solitary yet occasionally aggregating in groups when feeding at sites with abundant food.
Anatomy and appearance
As a filter feeder it has a capacious mouth which can be up to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) wide and can contain between 300 and 350 rows of tiny teeth. It has five large pairs of gills. Two small eyes are located towards the front of the shark's wide, flat head.
The body is mostly grey with a white belly; three prominent ridges run along each side of the animal and the skin is marked with a "checkerboard" of pale yellow spots and stripes. These spots are unique to each whale shark and because of this they can be used to identify each animal and hence make an accurate population count. Its skin can be up to 10 centimetres (3.9 in) thick.
The whale shark is a filter feeder — one of only three known filter feeding shark species (along with the basking shark and the megamouth shark). It feeds on phytoplankton, macro-algae, plankton, krill and small nektonic life, such as small squid or vertebrates. The many rows of teeth play no role in feeding; in fact, they are reduced in size in the whale shark. Instead, the shark sucks in a mouthful of water, closes its mouth and expels the water through its gills.
This species, despite its enormous size, does not pose any significant danger to humans. It is a frequently cited example when educating the public about the popular misconceptions of all sharks as "man-eaters". They are actually quite gentle and can be playful with divers. There are unconfirmed reports of sharks lying still, upside down on the surface to allow divers to scrape parasites and other organisms from their bellies. Divers and snorkelers can swim with this giant fish without any risk apart from unintentionally being struck by the shark's large tail fin.
Dubai: Gulf News is asking readers to support the campaign to free Sammy the whale... more