Movements and habitat use of satellite-tagged whale sharks off western Madagascar

Published on 17. May 2018

Movements and habitat use of satellite-tagged whale sharks off western Madagascar

Diamant S, Rohner CA, Kiszka JJ, Guillemain d’Echon A, Guillemain d’Echon T, Sourisseau E, Pierce SJ


Whale sharks Rhincodon typus, the world’s largest fish, are routinely sighted off the northwest coast of Madagascar, particularly off the island of Nosy Be. Dedicated whale shark tourism has been developing in the area since 2011. During our first dedicated survey, from September to December 2016, we photo-identified 85 individual whale sharks ranging from 3.5 to 8 m in total length (all juveniles). None had been previously identified from surrounding countries. We tagged 8 sharks with tethered SPOT5 tags in October 2016, with tracking durations of 9 to 199 d. Kernel density plots showed that the main activity hotspot for tagged sharks was around the Nosy Be area. Three individuals were resighted back at Nosy Be in late 2017 after having lost their tags. A secondary hotspot was identified off Pointe d’Analalava, 180 km southeast of Nosy Be. Five sharks swam off the shelf into the northeastern Mozambique Channel, between Madagascar and Mayotte, and one of these continued to near the Comoros islands. Two sharks swam to southern Madagascar, with minimum track distances of 3414 and 4275 km. The species is presently unprotected in Madagascar, although a small proportion of the high-use area we identified in this study is encompassed within 2 marine protected areas adjacent to Nosy Be. Whale sharks are globally endangered and valuable to the local economy, so there is a clear rationale to identify and mitigate impacts on the sharks within the 2 hotspots identified here.

Endang Species Res 36:49-58. DOI 10.3354/esr00889



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