Yesterday, we met a whale shark near Miniloc Island! And we have been lucky enough to dive with him for 45 minutes with cameras. Whale shark sightings can occur just about anywhere in Bacuit Bay. But this gentle giants are rare animals. So our guests and our team were blessed to encounter him. It’s a good opportunity to speak about this fascinating creature!
Whale Shark from Palawan Divers on Vimeo.
The biggest fish in the world.
The Whale shark is the largest fish in the world, growing up to 12m in length an up to 20 tons. Despite their size, they are totally harmless. They are filter feeders, straining their prey -plankton and small fishes – from the water column. Whale sharks are found in warm waters worldwide including Philippines.
They are rare.
Because Whale sharks live long lives (estimates say 70+ years), mature late not producing offspring until 30+ years of age, and give birth to relatively few offspring during their lifetime, they are especially threatened by human exploitation. Like human fingerprints, whale sharks have a unique pattern of spots which allow individual sharks to be identified. By taking photos and cataloguing them, WWF has identified 458 different whale sharks in the Philippines.
Threats to the whale shark include habitat loss which results in loss of prey species, coastal development resulting in marine pollution, collision with boats, and disturbance or harassment by boats and divers engaged in irresponsible tourism activities.
Do not touch!
If you are lucky enough to encounter one of these gentle giants, it is an experience you will never forget. Meeting a whale shark is high on the wish list, for anyone freediving in the Philippines. So, a little excitement is understandable, but please resist the temptation to touch or ride a whale shark. Passive interaction with all marine life is healthier for the animals and will not alarm them. Just keep watching, and often the curious whale shark will come close to you. Avoid whale shark feeding as well!
Pictures from Joanne Kan Mei Fong. Visit her Facebook page.