The Whale Shark is the largest living fish in the ocean and can grow up to an astounding 50ft (16m) long! The species can be found in tropical and temperate waters all around the globe. As the Whale Shark is only one of three filter-feeding sharks in the ocean, its diet consists mainly of plankton, crustaceans, krill, and sometimes tiny fish. In Galapagos, Whale Sharks can be found consistently in the far north around Darwin Island and occasionally further south around the main islands.
This majestic giant arrives around June and July. They migrate during this time to coincide with the arrival and uplift of the Humboldt Current in the waters around Galapagos. This current travels from the south and moves northwards. It brings cold nutritious waters which flow along the South American shores. Scientists believe the Whale Shark navigates by following magnetic fields on the ocean floor.
One aspect of their behaviour that is still not fully understood is why they choose Galapagos at this time of year. Scientists currently think it may be associated with their breeding cycles, but very little is still understood about how these massive creatures reproduce. One thing that is known is that female Whale Sharks can host more than 300 eggs!
The Whale Shark has a “vulnerable and endangered” conservation status, mainly due to illegal fishing, bycatch and ship collisions. As a result, the trade of Whale Shark meat or products is prohibited. This is declared in a section of the list in Appendix II of The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - known as CITES.
In Galapagos, Darwin Island’s dive sites offer a truly unique experience. A diving cruise to Galapagos gives you a unique chance to encounter these beautiful, gentle giants close up. Swimming in the Galapagos among these wonderful creatures is the highlight of a Galapagos diving cruise adventure.
Fast Facts about the Whale Shark
- The white spots on their back are unique to each individual, like a fingerprint
- 98% of Whale Shark sightings are of pregnant females
- Whale Sharks find their way to Galapagos by following geo-magnetic "pathways" in the ocean