In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.
On 30th August it’s International Whale Shark Day! So to celebrate this month’s creature feature is all about the largest fish in the ocean… the Whale Shark!
The biggest shark in the ocean. The biggest fish in the ocean. The Whale Shark lives up to its name. Reaching a whopping 18m in length (potentially more). This is a legendary and beautiful shark.
They are unmistakable. Apart from their size, these filter-feeders have a beautiful patterning on their back. They have a checkerboard of white or yellowish spots on a grey, blue or brown back. It is often compared to a starry sky. In fact. In Madagascar they are known as “marokintana” for “many stars”.
Each Whale Shark’s pattern is unique. Amazingly, software used to identify star clusters from images of space has been adapted to identify individual Whale Sharks!
These sharks are highly migratory. Including journeys of 13,000km (made one way only) over 37 months. Which falls short of the most migratory shark, the Blue Shark. Tagging has revealed that there are regular ‘aggregation sites’. Here, Whale Sharks come together in huge numbers. Several hundred Whale Sharks may come together. To feed at annual, seasonal or lunar fish and invertebrate spawning events. The huge numbers of plankton at these events are consumed by suction. Whale Sharks can hang vertically and feed by sucking and gulping in water which is filtered through gill rakers.
Despite everything we know about them. And tagging studies. We still don’t know where Whale Shark’s pupping or nursery grounds are! We do know they are viviparous, giving birth to live young. Giving birth to up to 300 young.
Although they are protected by international agreements such as CITES and CMS. Unfortunately, Whale Sharks are endangered. They’ve been overfished in many areas for meat. Currently, the tourism industry for this species is booming. If you’re lucky enough to be able to go and see Whale Sharks – then why take a look at our guide for ecotourism.
Finally, if you want to support this majestic creature why not adopt a Whale Shark?
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Rhincodon typus
MAXIMUM SIZE: 17m – 21m
DISTRIBUTION: Circumglobal, all tropical and warm seas except the Mediterranean
HABITAT: Open ocean to close inshore off beaches
Banner Image – © Paul Cowell | Shutterstock
For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.
Reef-World Launches New Partnerships to Accelerate Sustainability in the Dive Industry
The Reef-World Foundation, DiveAssure, and ZuBlu are launching a new collaboration to champion marine conservation while promoting sustainable diving practices. The symbiotic partnerships aim to increase awareness and implementation of environmental standards in the marine tourism industry through the Green Fins initiative, spearheaded by Reef-World in partnership with the UN Environment Programme.
Businesses have a unique opportunity to create a long-lasting impact through partnerships with conservation organisations. These partnerships show how tourism can go hand in hand with sustainability when businesses join forces with conservation organisations. By working together, these organisations and companies demonstrate their dedication towards sustainability and open doors to endless opportunities for growth and success in the tourism industry that benefit the people and the planet.
As the number of divers continues to grow and make a comeback post-pandemic, studies have shown that there’s a strong demand for sustainability education from dive tourists. This resulted in the partnership between Reef-World, DiveAssure and ZuBlu to promote sustainable diving practices through one of Green Fins tools, the Green Fins Diver e-Course. The course is designed for recreational divers to build on their existing scuba diving knowledge and provide them with the skills and confidence to conduct environmentally friendly diving trips. This, in return, empowers them to use their consumer power to demand more sustainable practices.
Chloe Harvey, Executive Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re thrilled to be taking this step with these two wonderful companies. This is a truly symbiotic partnership, one that furthers the business priorities of DiveAssure and ZuBlu, as well as delivering on our conservation objectives. Reef-World has a long history of working with sustainability leaders in the diving industry, and with their support, we look forward to diving into a future where sustainability is at the heart of every dive adventure.”
What the partnerships entail for divers who have completed the Green Fins Diver e-Course:
- Get 20% off worldwide diving accident and dive-travel insurance from DiveAssure.
- Get 5% off scuba diving holidays booked with ZuBlu, a dive travel agency which has over 800 carefully chosen resort and liveaboard partners across 100 dive destinations worldwide.
- Reef-World to provide 10% off on Green Fins Diver e-Course for all DiveAssure and ZuBlu customers and members.
Besides offering a discount on their diving accident and travel plans, DiveAssure proudly supports top Green Fins Members across the globe with grants to fulfil their sustainability and conservation goals. Founded in 1999, DiveAssure has a goal of not only providing scuba divers with everything they might need in terms of safety and medical assistance, they are also committed to sustainability and the protection of our ocean. They champion responsible diving, endorse marine conservation, and continuously strive to minimise environmental footprints. Every quarter, DiveAssure evaluates initiatives proposed by Green Fins members — be it beach or reef cleanups, coral propagation, or setting up marine life nurseries. Dive centres keen to collaborate on such impactful endeavours are encouraged to reach out to email@example.com for further details.
Tal Tamir, Business Development & Community Chief at DiveAssure, said: “We are thrilled about our new partnership with The Reef-World Foundation. We believe that sustainable diving is a key factor in preserving the beauty and biodiversity of our ocean. And that through education, we can raise awareness and drive positive change. The Green Fins courses empower divers and operators with knowledge about marine conservation, sustainable diving practices and the importance of protecting the ocean and its ecosystems — knowledge we encourage all our members to have. Green Fins Members are welcome to apply for funding for their blue-green initiatives, which are considered quarterly. Let’s do good together!”
With the “Explore the blue. Dive green.” tagline, ZuBlu celebrates sustainable businesses and encourages divers to be more environmentally conscious while on their adventures to contribute to a healthier ocean. Reef-World has proudly collaborated with ZuBlu since 2018, and this new partnership model represents a transformation in the impact they can have together. Their mission centres around improving the way travellers engage with the ocean. They believe every dive starts at home, and every decision made in planning a holiday can make a difference to the marine environment. With access to information on the sustainable practices implemented by their featured resort and liveaboard partners, they can ensure their customers find sustainable operators to book their ocean adventures with.
Adam Broadbent, co-founder and CEO at ZuBlu, said: “We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration with The Reef-World Foundation to further encourage more conscious divers. At ZuBlu, we want to empower our guests to be a force for good on their scuba diving adventures. And we are delighted to be rewarding Green Fins Divers with a 5% discount to acknowledge their commitment to the ocean.”
Join the movement to protect our ocean by taking the Green Fins Diver e-Course and receiving all the rewards that come from the partnerships.
The Reef-World Foundation is a registered UK charity which delivers practical solutions for marine conservation around the world. The charity promotes the wise use of natural resources – particularly coral reefs and related ecosystems – for the benefit of local communities, visitors and future generations. It is dedicated to supporting, inspiring and empowering governments, businesses, communities and individuals around the world to act in conserving and sustainably developing coastal resources.
Reef-World leads the global implementation of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative, which focuses on driving environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the industry globally. As such, the charity provides low-cost and practical solutions to local and industry-wide environmental challenges associated with the marine tourism industry. It provides education and capacity-building assistance to empower environmental champions (within the diving industry, local communities, authorities and governments) to implement proven coastal resource management approaches.
About Green Fins
Green Fins is a proven conservation management approach – spearheaded by The Reef-World Foundation in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – which leads to a measurable reduction in the negative environmental impacts associated with the marine tourism industry. The initiative aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines that promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. It provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.
Green Fins encourages and empowers members of the diving industry to act to reduce the pressures on coral reefs by offering dive and snorkel companies practical, low-cost alternatives to harmful practices – such as anchoring, fish feeding and chemical pollution – as well as providing strategic training, support and resources. By reducing the local direct and indirect pressures tourism puts on coral reefs, it helps make corals healthier and more resilient to other stresses such as the effects of climate change. Look for the Green Fins logo when booking your next dive trip.
DiveAssure goes beyond being just another member association. DiveAssure is your steadfast companion and passport to extraordinary underwater adventures. Their membership provides medical, rescue and evacuation services in case divers and travellers have an accident, become injured, sick or if their safety is threatened.
Whatever the emergency, wherever you are, DiveAssure has your back. So you can immerse yourself in the wonders of the deep, knowing their comprehensive benefits, global network, and unwavering commitment to your safety will ensure that every dive is an unforgettable and secure experience. Learn more at www.diveassure.com.
ZuBlu is the world’s leading dive travel agency for scuba diving and ocean experiences, with more than 800 partners in over 100 dive destinations around the world. Secure online booking, expert travel advisors and flexible booking terms mean you can discover, compare and book scuba diving holidays with ease. Discover and book your next diving adventure at www.zubludiving.com now.
Creature Feature: Broadnose Sevengill Shark
In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.
Written by guest contributor – Yolanda Evans.
A small glimpse of grey amongst the the vibrant green of the kelp around the temperate coastal waters could be no other then the incredible Broadnose Sevengill shark! Hinted by their common name, these sharks have seven pairs of gill slits – unlike the typical five. These sharks can reach up to 3 metres long and are commonly misidentified as the other species of sevengill the Sharpnose Sevengill. The Broadnose is distinguished by small black and white freckles on their fins and underside and a much larger head then the Sharpnose.
Unlike many other sharks in the Hexanidae family (Cowsharks), this species prefers waters of less then 50 m in depth; sometimes being found in river estuaries where the depth is around 1m! However, Brodnose’s make seasonal migration during the winter to the continental shelves, following their food and sexually mature females.
Broadnose Sevengill’s have a unique tooth shape in their lower jaws: they are shaped like combs which they use to anchor into their prey. This sharks favourite snacks large fish (including other sharks) and crustaceans but they have been videoed eating carrion (dead/decaying bodies), making them scavengers. There are even reports of cannibalism as the older sharks eat the younger to reduce competition. Once they’ve eaten a meal they wont have to eat again for weeks, in fact, in a month they only consume 6% of their body weight!
Predominantly being a solitary shark, they do sometimes congregate in groups to hunt. They mainly do this to get to bigger prey which could be too much work for a single shark. Stalking behind their prey, these sevengill’s will then rapidly burst out to chase down their prey.
Sevengill’ are ovoviviparous and can give birth to 60-180 pups, an incredibly high amount. The pups remain in the shallow waters until they reach a certain size to help avoid predators.
Recent carcasses of these sevengill’s have been found worldwide, all with their livers missing. Who could be behind this series of surgically-precise murders other then the infamous Orca. Orca, or Killer Whales,purposefully seek out Broadnose Sevengill sharks for their livers rich in fats, making a high calorie snack for these mammals. The Orca turn the shark over on their backs, putting them in a state of tonic immobility, and then using their sharp conical teeth they precisely remove the liver leaving the rest of the shark as it doesn’t have the same nutritional value. However, a few videos have emerged of these Orcas then playing with their food, pushing the dead sharks body up and down with their snouts!
Orca’s aren’t the only mammal to purposefully hunt down these sharks as the Broadnose Sevengill’s are also targeted by humans for their meat, skin for leather, and their oil, however, their main threat is being caught as by-catch during industrial fishing. The IUCN lists them as Data Deficient, however, it is expected that they are Near Threatened.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Notorynchus cepedianus
MAXIMUM SIZE: Up to 3.3 meters (10.8 feet) in length
DIET: Feeds on a variety of prey including fish, squid, crustaceans, and even other sharks
DISTRIBUTION: Broadnose Sevengill Sharks have a cosmopolitan distribution, found in coastal and offshore waters in temperate and tropical regions worldwide.
HABITAT: Found in a variety of habitats, including estuaries, bays, and shallow reefs, as well as deeper waters of up to 150 meters (492 feet) in depth.
While there is little data on population trends, this species is known to be caught as bycatch in some commercial and recreational fisheries, and there is also concern over the impact of habitat loss and degradation on their populations.
For more great shark information and conservation visit the Shark Trust Website
Banner image – Aaron Scheiner | Wikimedia Commons
In-text Image – derekkeats | Wikimedia Commons
In-text Image – Coco | Wikimedia Commons
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