The Galapagos Whale Shark Project team are setting sail this week to continue their research on whale sharks around Darwin and Wolf islands at the very north of the Archipelago. The area was announced in March 2016 as a shark sanctuary due to the abundance of sharks here being the highest in the world!
There are a number of locations around the planet where regular aggregations of whale sharks are found but Galapagos is special; it appears that over 90% of whale sharks that pass through the Islands are heavily pregnant females.
Nobody has ever seen a whale shark give birth or breed. This kind of information is critical for ensuring that sensitive habitats are protected, particularly for these kind of species that undertake significant migrations across the jurisdictions of several countries. The need for this kind of research is becoming more and more pertinent – only this year, the whale shark was listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List, primarily due to the pressures presented by the demand for shark fins in Asia and being caught as bycatch in other fisheries.
Thanks to GCT supporters, this cutting edge research will continue this year as the project team hope to tag more sharks and add to their photo ID database to unravel more of the mysteries of this elusive creature. The researchers also hope to get their first blood sample from a free-swimming wild whale shark – this would be critical to prove that these sharks are pregnant, to establish how closely related these populations are and also could give valuable insight into their exposure to marine plastic pollution.
Over the next year, we are working to design an outreach programme to reach schools in Galapagos with shark education and wider conservation messages in conjunction with GCT’s Discovering Galapagos programme. This will be an exciting collaboration involving other whale shark researchers around the world as we share ideas and resources to optimise our impact for shark conservation world-wide.
If you would like to make a donation to the Galapagos Whale Shark Project please click here. You can also adopt a Scalloped Hammerhead, one of the other famous residents of Galapagos’ Shark Sanctuary. Thank you for supporting this great conservation work!