Monday, 29 December 2014

Whale sharks to be tagged to save species

Technology will uncover the mating secrets of these enigmatic giants

Sunday 28 December 2014

It is the largest fish in the ocean with some individuals reaching sizes of up to 65ft (18m) long and weighing more than 30 tonnes, but whale sharks remain one of the enigmas of the deep.

There are fears that the gentle giant, whose flesh is prized in countries such as China, India and the Philippines, is being slowly driven towards extinction. And so little is known about them that there is huge uncertainty about how their decline can be arrested.

Scientists and conservationists hope to safeguard the giant creatures' future by electronically tagging them to uncover their secrets. The project is being supported by the Galapagos Conservation Trust, based in London. Spokesman Peter Haskell said: "We are starting to build a picture of the whale shark's global migration."

Divers from the Galapagos Whale Shark Trust plan to tag both males and females off the coast of Peru to trace where they go and what they do. One of their main hopes is that it will reveal where in the ocean the species courts and mates, a key piece of information in the fight to understand and protect it.

"We don't know where they mate, we don't know where they give birth and we don't know where they spend the first couple of years of their lives," said Dr Alex Hearn of the Galapagos Whale Shark Trust.

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