Mote Marine Laboratory scientists tagged three whale sharks from a group of 10 whale sharks that gathered Friday, June 18, about 23 miles offshore and southwest of Sarasota.
Dr. Robert Hueter, director of Mote’s Center for Shark Research, and his team tagged two males and one female, each more than 20 feet long.
“People who have lived here 30 years have never seen anything like this,” Hueter said in a prepared statement. “Usually whale sharks come to our waters transiently in ones and twos. This time we had 10, and we stayed with them for four hours.”
The shark sighting brings concern that large fish, including whale sharks, could be changing their raining patterns because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But the sharks showed no signs of distress or unusual behavior.
“It’s unusual for so many whale sharks to appear near Sarasota but not necessarily bad for their survival,” Hueter said. “It’s not what we expect to see in their life cycle, but they were finding food and appeared to be healthy. We don’t know if the oil spill brought us this large group, and we don’t know how the spill will affect whale sharks in the future. But these are adaptable creatures and highly migratory. If the spill seriously threatens their range elsewhere, this area may provide a refuge.”
One of the sharks, Sara, was previously tagged by Mote scientists May 28. On Friday, Sara was fitted with another type of tag that will store location data for 180 days before it pops up, floats to the surface and sends data to researchers via satellite. Because Sara appears to be pregnant, her tagging could provide valuable information about where she gives birth.
Mote has been tagging sharks since 2003 to help learn about their traveling patterns.
Contact Robin Hartill at email@example.com.
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- My Family and I were at our last day visiting Seista Key. We went to beach axcess 9, right by our hotel. We played for a little bit in shore, then we decide to go about about 50 yards out. We kept playing,In the shoulder deep water.We were having a good time with the waves.My sister was facing me and my brother, and I saw a black ginormous figure in the water. I had just got the saltwater out of my face when I saw it. I then told my sister to turn around and swim as fast as she could. She turned aournd,seeing it and we told our dad. After he saw it my brother saw it. Me, my brother, and sister got amazingly scared and swam to shore. My dad, was shocked and we all decide it was a huge shark. Then my dad was keeping his eyes on the head, making it all he saw. We were very close to the shore, and I was worried for my dad keeping his eye on it. All it did was swim away so we figured it wasn't something that dangerous. It swan pretty fast, disapearing out of my veiw as I got about 25 yards from the shore. The we went back to the Hotel, swam in the pool for a little bit. After checking out we went on our way home. The whole ride home it was all I thought about. Being so close I knew from the size it wasn't a manatee. When we got home we searched Gulf of Mexico Sharks. We originally thought it was a Nurse shark, but the body didnt match. I knew it would be a young whale shark.All we got was a Black figure moving along against the current. We were relieved to find out it wasn't dagerous. It was an amazing experience! We were within touching range of it, but decide it would be best to leave it be.
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