The Galapagos Islands are one of several locations that whale sharks are known to visit at certain times of the year. Unlike aggregations in the Indian Ocean, which are largely made up of small immature males, the majority of sharks sighted in the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) are large mature females. Of further interest is the fact that over 90% of those females appear to be pregnant. By tagging individual whale sharks, the team is hoping to build a robust set of data that will tell us about their migration behaviour. Once we understand more about migratory patterns, it can be determined what action needs to be taken to protect this magnificent ocean giant.
Since 2011, the team have tagged over 60 whale sharks, recording the position of the sharks each time they surface, allowing them to build a picture of their movements. The GMR, and specifically Darwin island, appear to be important areas for whale sharks. The tracks suggest that Darwin island provides an important point for navigation for the sharks on their way to feeding grounds in the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to understanding the sharks’ migration, the team are also looking into whether the sharks are indeed pregnant. They have collected blood samples and in 2019 carried out the world’s first ultrasound on a wild whaleshark. Both aspects of the sharks’ life history are important for educating local authorities and communities both in Galapagos and on mainland South America to inform management strategies.
To find out more about the project, please visit our blog for project updates.
How you can help
Please help us conserve the endangered sharks of Galapagos today by donating to our sharks programme, purchasing one of our exclusive shark t-shirts, jumpers or bags, or signing up to become a GCT member.