Whale Sharks are an endangered marine species – but here in Ko Lanta we are delighted to have been named as the top diving location in Thailand for Whale Shark sightings. These beautiful migratory animals can be found along the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea and also in the Gulf of Thailand.
In some countries, whale shark fishing is still a legal activity. This severely threatens whale shark lives and put them at risk of extinction. Available information and studies on whale sharks are very limited compared to the increasing demands of information about the little-known lifecycle of these beautiful creatures. The whale shark population, their migratory routes, and status still remain unknown. Hence, there is a real need for more surveys. Conducting surveys on whale sharks requires huge financial support, manpower and time, therefore, could not be accomplished by just one organization. The cooperation of private sector is an important key to fulfill this extensive survey and conservation of the largest fish in the world.
Photos are an important technique in identifying Whale Sharks
The Ko Lanta National Marine Park is known as one of the migratory routes and feeding grounds for whale sharks and we urge all our diving guests and staff to support and participate in the Lanta Whale Shark’s DOTs Activity Project to enable us to further reach this conservation goal together.
The Lanta Whale Shark’s DOTs Activity Project has been initiated to monitor whale shark populations and distribution through a collaboration between the Mu Ko Lanta National Marine Park and tour operators who visit the many islands within the National Park. Scubafish is proud to be an active member of this project.
A survey using photo identification techniques can identify whale shark’s via the unique patterns of their dots. This can help us to answer the question of population numbers, habitats, and feeding grounds which are very essential for the conservation.
Submit photos of Whale Shark Sightings to the DOTS and International Whale Shark Databases
Whale shark photographs taken using the ‘DOTs shooting technique’ during sea travelling can be submitted to the Whale Shark sightings data collection page at: www.whalesharkdots.com for scientific analysis. Moreover any and all conservation activity can raise public awareness of the need for protecting marine animals.
- 1) Follow the “Whale Shark Code of Conduct” whilst capturing images of Whale Sharks
- 2) Photographs of the left-side dots pattern on whale shark (from the area just behind the gills) will be scanned into the LANTA database and used to identify the sighted whale shark. The photographs are then sent to the international photo-identification centre for Whale Sharks; the ECOCEAN and Shark Trust research databases to match with thousands of previous sighted whale sharks within their library.
- 3) Dots area from the base of the dorsal fin to the bottom of the last gill slit are needed.
- 4) Shoot the photograph perpendicular to the dots area.
- 5) Photographs of any marks or scars on the head, fins and body can help scientists to easily identify.
- 6) Captured frames from videos can also be submitted.
- 7) Submit all data to www.whalesharkdots.com
An individual whale shark can be identified by the shape and markings on body as well as their unique pattern of dots which can be compared to a human fingerprint.
Shooting photographs of the patterning of each whale shark can be useful in distinguishing between individuals Whale Shark sightings. The information can help predict the population size and food sources of whale shark sightings in Thailand. This will help to further our understanding of these vulnerable and highly migratory shark species and enable us to take specific action to protect them and their habitats.
Follow the Whale Shark Code of Conduct
The most important things to remember when shooting photos of a whale shark:
- Keep diving group sizes small to reduce impact on other animals or coral reefs.
- Never chase, touch or ride whale sharks as they will get frightened and swim away.
- Keep watching calmly.
- Keep distance between you and the whale sharks (maintain a minimum distance of 3 metres from the Whale Shark) and back off if it is becoming stressed.
- Do not use underwater motorized diver propulsions.
- Do not feed whale sharks as they will change their behaviour.
(Source: Whale Shark Project: www.whalesharkproject.org)