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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!

Competitions

WIN a Beuchat Air Light Bag!!!

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For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Beuchat to give away an Air Light Bag!

The Air Light Bag from Beuchat is a practical travel bag that takes up minimum storage space.

  • Material: 600 denier and 1,000 denier nylon/PVC
  • Soft roller bag, easily stored in its mesh bag
  • Internal retaining straps
  • Zip fastener with eyelets for padlocks
  • Side compartment for fins
  • Outer document pocket with coated zip and carry strap
  • Backpack style straps concealed behind the foam back-plate
  • Drainage vents
  • Red over-moulded wheels; detachable wheel block

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can read here), we reported that the Philippines have been recognised as the World’s Leading Dive Destination at the 27th World Travel Awards. In the article it states how many islands make up the Philippines… how many are there?

Is there:

  • A) 7,209
  • B) 7,532
  • C) 7,641

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Beuchat Air Light Bag December 2020

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, or employees of Beuchat and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 13/01/21. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
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Gear News

Quick Scuba Tips #1: How To Prep A New Mask for Scuba Diving (Watch Video)

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How To Prep A New Mask for Scuba Diving. Can’t I just take my new mask diving straight out of the box? Well, actually, no. It needs a little work to make it dive ready.

In this, the first in our new scuba diving quick hints and tips series, I’m going to show you how to prepare a new mask for scuba diving with three quick techniques, all aimed at stopping your scuba mask from fogging.

Yes, this link is an affiliate link. Purchases made through these links may earn me a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Dive safe, dive often!

James


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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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