Thursday, 31 May 2012

Group of 25 whale sharks off Western Australia

Whale shark discovery prompts caution
May 2012. The group of at least 25 whale sharks was spotted earlier this month by recreational boater Luke Ryan feeding on krill west of the Muiron Islands, and later confirmed by Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) marine rangers.
DEC Exmouth whale shark conservation officer Emily Wilson said it was the first time feeding aggregations of more than 20 whale sharks had been recorded in the Ningaloo area, although aggregations of this size have been observed in other parts of the world.
"At this stage, it was clear from observations and plankton samples collected the sharks were in the area due to the abundance of food on the surface of the water, however we are unsure if this feeding aggregation is a unique event or a common occurrence at night when no-one is there to witness it," she said.
"This discovery is very exciting as it may help us unravel many mysteries about the whale shark population at Ningaloo and how it links with other populations around the world. Whale sharks are a threatened species and they need to be in prime health in order to reproduce, so disturbance needs to be minimised so that normal feeding behaviour can be maintained.
The DEC is asking boaters to take extra caution around a newly discovered aggregation of whale sharks off the Ningaloo coast. The whale sharks were feeding at the surface, making them vulnerable to boat strike.

"DEC asks that recreational and commercial boat operators watch their speed around the Muiron Islands Marine Management Area and maintain a good lookout at all times."

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