We are thrilled to report our 1st whale shark sighting since our Ocean Action Project was incepted in 2012. The whale shark was seen close to the surface at Hin Pae in Surin Islands.
Richelieu Rock in Surin National Park is renowned worldwide as a whale shark magnet but in recent years sightings have been extremely rare, causing concern that they were falling prey to the fishing industry. This season however sightings by other dive operators in the Andaman Sea seem to have increased, including a juvenile seen at Koh Tachai - the most northernly island in Similans National Park.
Whale Sharks come up to shallow waters to warm up after travelling at depth as they migrate through our seas & oceans. Over the past few seasons, sea temperatures in North Andaman Sea have been 1 or 2 degrees higher than normal. This year however, they are back to normal. So perhaps in previous years when sea temperatures were higher, whale sharks did not need to come up as frequently or as shallow to warm up, hence sightings were rarer. Just a personal theory - no scientific proof!
Blue Guru will however continuing monitoring sightings of all types of shark & ray on every dive & snorkel session this season as part of our Ocean Action Project. This data will be analysed to assess whether shark & ray populations are declining (or recovering) and whether fishing boats seen near dive/snorkel sites are increasing (or reducing). Either way, we want to ensure endangered species such as whale sharks are not at threat from the fishing boats & their nets.
We also share all data recorded from every dive/snorkel with eShark Thailand - a national project being run this season by Shark Guardian to monitor shark, ray, turtle, seahorse & other species. So we are excited to be able to report our 1st whale shark sighting to them.
We also submit data & photographs of whale shark sightings to Ecocean & Shark Trust, 2 international organisations which manage photo ID liabraries. Using technology they can identify individual whale sharks using their unique patterns. So we look forward to finding out whether the whale shark seen at Surin is new to the Andaman Sea or a return visitor.
We also hope to have more whale shark sightings at Richelieu, Surin & Tachai, as we now enter what is traditionally considered to be whale shark season in North Andaman Sea.