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Researchers request reports of whale shark sightings in the Gulf of Mexico

Researchers request reports of whale shark sightings in the Gulf of Mexico
Posted at 12:59 PM, Jun 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-07 12:59:50-04

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory are looking to attach a satellite tag on whale sharks, and are asking for help reporting sightings of the giant fish.

According to Mote, a report of five whale sharks came in from about 40 miles off Anna Maria Island last weekend.

, and Mote scientists are asking members of the public to report new sightings off Florida’s Gulf Coast immediately.

If others are reported in the Gulf, Senior Scientist Dr. Bob Hueter and partners want to attach a special type of satellite tag to one or more of these gentle giants, to collect data on their geographic location and the temperatures and depths they encounter over a six-month period.
 
This tag trails behind the shark’s first dorsal fin on a short tether, and whenever the shark is at the surface, the tag transmits precise location data. 

Boaters are asked to report any whale shark sightings in the Gulf of Mexico immediately from the boat, or just after disembarking, within 24 hours at most, to Dr. Hueter at Mote’s Center for Shark Research: 941-302-0976.

Please note the number of whale sharks spotted, the date, time, location and exact GPS coordinates if possible.

Whale sharks sporadically visit Southwest Florida’s coastal waters, and are easily identified by their massive size, up to about 45 feet, and their polka dot coloration.

RELATED: Man swims with whale shark in Southwest Florida

“It’s important to understand where these sharks migrate, feed and carry out other key parts of their life cycles, so that resource managers can successfully protect them,” Hueter said. “We have placed satellite-linked tracking tags on numerous whale sharks at a major feeding aggregation off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the past decade, but it’s rarer that we can find and tag these huge fish off Florida’s Gulf Coast.”

RELATED: Fishermen spot whale shark off Lee County