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Marine Life & Conservation

Whale Shark: The Biggest Fish in the Ocean

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The incredible Whale Shark is the biggest fish in the ocean, and it is such a beautiful, gentle creature.

It has to be said that whale sharks probably don’t have Einstein’s IQ since they have the smallest brain in the ocean for their size, but give them a break… they help keep plankton and krill under control, which is necessary for our oceans and for life on earth. I just returned from the Yucatan peninsula where possibly the largest aggregation of whale sharks occurs, and it was a spectacular trip. Here are some Whale Shark Facts along with the photographs I took:

1. The largest fish in the ocean can grow up to 65 feet and 75,000 pounds. They are as large as many whales, and as big as, or bigger than, a city bus.

I took this photo of the vertical, pregnant whale shark and our Kiwi!

2.  The largest fish in the ocean eats the smallest creatures in the ocean: tiny plankton, small fish, and small crustaceans. They are filter feeders, which means they gulp sea water through their gills, and when the water is pushed out, prey gets stuck to their gill plates. Yum!

Andrea photographing.

3.  Whale Sharks are sharks and do not have bones, but cartilage. Cartilage does not fossilize as well as bones do, so there is not a huge fossil record of sharks. Most of what we know of ancient sharks come from their teeth.

This lousy photo gives you a sense of the scale of these animals!

4.  Female Whale Sharks are bigger than the males and are found in all warm oceans: Pacific, Indian and Atlantic.

Two feeding sharks

5.  Whale Sharks are gentle creatures and one can swim right next to the animal with no fear.

This is the big gulp!!!

6.  Each whale shark has a unique spot pattern from it’s gill to over the pectoral fins. When swimming with whale sharks, it is best to take ID photos to upload into a scientific database like www.whaleshark.org.

Here is a Whale Shark ID shot.

7. Thanks to tagging and ID photographs much more is now known about Whale Sharks compared to 10 years ago. We know they migrate thousands of miles to opportunistically feed… Mexico is a hotspot, particularly the Yucatan where tuna spawn in the summer. Whale sharks can live up to 100 years!

8.  It is not common to see pregnant females like the one pictured here. Much of the time one sees juvenile males. A female whale shark has been known to hold 300 fetuses. It is possible that female whale sharks may “save sperm” in order to fertilize their own eggs as they are made, but more study needs to be completed in order to know for certain.

Feeding series 2. I swam in front of the shark to get a shot and she buttoned up.

Feeding series 3. She opened back up when I reached her other side.

9.  Sadly, the whale shark is “vulnerable” according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List. Whale sharks are protected in most areas of the world but are still killed for their fins (for shark fin soup).  Sharks are very toxic to humans so they are not a good food source, and humans have been very toxic toward sharks since we are responsible for the deaths of 75 to 100 million sharks a year.

Fin and Andrea

 

What a beautiful animal.

If you wish to learn more about these fascinating sharks, check out www.marinemegafauna.org. Marine Megafauna Foundation studies large pelagic species in order to understand their ecology and protect them from illegal fishing practices. You can even adopt a shark, manta ray, or sea turtle! The proceeds go toward scientific study of the animals for conservation purposes. Marine Megafauna also offers expeditions (like the one I was just on in the Yucatan) in order to assist scientists by performing citizen science. We are all responsible for the condition of our planet, and we all need to contribute in some way. If you’d like to learn more about sharks and the state of our oceans, I recommend going to www.sharkwater.com and seeing the documentaries of Rob Stewart, or checking the BBC or Discovery Channel.

Tam Warner Minton is an avid scuba diver, amateur underwater photographer, and adventurer. She encourages "citizen science" diving, whether volunteering with a group or by one's self. For Tam, the unexpected is usually the norm!

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Marine Life & Conservation

Video Series: The CCMI Reef Lectures – Part 4 (Watch Video)

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Introduced by Jeff Goodman

Never before since human beings have had major influence over our earths climate and environments, have we come to so close to the brink of global disaster for our seas and marine life. We need to act now if we are not going to crash headlong into irreversible scenarios.

A good start to this is understanding how the marine environment works and what it means to our own continued survival. We can only do this by listening and talking to those with the experience and knowledge to guide us in the right direction.

CCMI (Central Caribbean Marine Institute) are hosting an annual Reef Lecture series that is open to the general public and Scubaverse will be sharing those lectures over the coming months.


Part 4: Stop Whining! Life as an Ocean Ambassador; Ellen Cuylaerts

Ellen Cuylaerts shares her insights on how to act, practice what you preach and use your voice to contribute to constructive change. Ellen is a wildlife and underwater photographer and chooses to take images of subjects that are hard to encounter like harp seal pups, polar bears, orcas, beluga whales and sharks, to name a few. By telling the stories about their environment and the challenges they face, she raises awareness about the effect of climate change on arctic species, the cruel act of shark finning and keeping marine mammals in captivity.

During this seminar, Ellen will take you on a virtual trip and show you the stories behind the shots: how to get there, how to prepare, how to create the most chances to come home with a shot, and how to never give up!

Ellen Cuylaerts is an ocean advocate, underwater & wildlife photographer, explorer, and public speaker.


For more information about the CCMI click here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Fit filters in washing machines and slow the tide of ocean plastic

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The Marine Conservation Society’s Stop Ocean Threads campaign, which is calling for all new washing machines to be fitted with microfibre filters, by law, by 2024, aims to stop plastic pollution at source by filtering microscopic plastics from washing machine waste water.

To date the charity’s petition has been signed by over 12,000 people. The petition calls on government to introduce legislation which requires all new washing machines to be fitted with microfibre filters by law. Now, the charity is taking direct action and encouraging supporters to tweet washing machine manufacturers, putting pressure on them to fit filters on all new washing machines and slow the tide of microfibres entering the ocean.

Research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Marine Conservation Society revealed that most (81%) adults surveyed supported legislative change and a quarter (26%) of those said that they would be willing to pay an additional £50 or more for a washing machine fitted with a microfibre filter. Not only is there is clear public support for legislation to Stop Ocean Threads, but consumers are willing to pay extra for their washing machines to have ocean-friendly credentials.

It’s increasingly important to put this issue top of the agenda for washing machine manufacturers who can take action now helping to address the microplastic issue, rather than waiting for legislation to be put in place.

Dr Laura Foster, Marine Conservation Society’s Head of Clean Seas says: “Our research has found that the public is largely supportive of our call for legislation, and consumers are willing to pay a little more to reduce the flow of microplastics into the ocean.

“It’s fantastic to see the support our petition has received so far, but now we need the public to show their support and join our action to engage with manufacturers directly. If we can show manufacturers that the public wants these filters fitted as soon as possible, we hope to speed up the legislative process and get filters fitted in the near future.”

Members of the public are encouraged by the Marine Conservation Society to go direct to washing machine manufacturers, and get involved in the charity’s tweet action.

“Hey @Miele_GB @BekoUK @Hoover_UK @BoschUK @SamsungUK @WhirlpoolCorp  We want washing machine manufacturers to commit to fitting microfibre filters before 2024. Will you do this and help us #StopOceanThreads? Please retweet and share far and wide”

To sign the charity’s Stop Ocean Threads petition, visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website. Find out more on how to get involved in the direct action here.

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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