Despite being the largest fish in the ocean present in tropical warm and temperate waters across the globe, there is so much left to be learned about whale sharks. These charismatic gentle giants were classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species in 2016, making identification of subpopulations and migration corridors a conservation priority to protect them more effectively. A recent study (Guzman et al. 2018) documented the migration of a female whale shark satellite tagged off the coast of Panama that travelled over 20,000 km to the Mariana Trench in the western Indo-Pacific via the North Equatorial Current over a period of 841 days representing the longest trans-Pacific migration of a whale shark ever recorded. Results from this study are consistent with previous tracking studies and genetic samples which suggest this species is capable of long-distance travel (Eckert and Stewart 2001; Castro et al. 2007; Sequeira et al. 2013; Vignaud et al. 2014) and suggest that the Indo-Pacific sub-population is separate from a second Atlantic population. Because these animals travel such vast distances in unregulated waters managing this species is tremendously challenging and complex involving multiple jurisdictions. These findings along with work by Block et al. 2011 suggest the creation of migratory corridors that link the eastern and western Pacific basins. Additional studies and continued monitoring are advised to improve current models to take environmental conditions (sea surface temperature, chlorophyll concentration, geostrophic currents, sea surface height) into account as these variables may have an impact on distribution and abundance to avoid higher water temperatures.
Photo by @Juansharks featuring free diver @oceanramsey taken in the Galapagos
Post by @oneoceanresearch Biologist @blakethompsonphoto
Reposted from @oneoceanresearch
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