Photo-ID and telemetry highlight a global whale shark hotspot in Palawan

Published on
20. November 2019

Photo-ID and telemetry highlight a global whale shark hotspot in Palawan, Philippines

Gonzalo Araujo, Ariana Agustines, Brian Tracey, Sally Snow, Jessica Labaja, Alessandro Ponzo


The Philippines is home to the second largest known population of whale sharks in the world. The species is listed as endangered due to continued population declines in the Indo-Pacific. Knowledge about the connectivity within Southeast Asia remains poor, and thus international management is difficult. Here, we employed pop-up archival tags, data mining and dedicated effort to understand an aggregation of whale sharks at Honda Bay, Palawan, Philippines, and its role in the species’ conservation. Between Apr and Oct 2018, we conducted 159 surveys identifying 117 individual whale sharks through their unique spot patterns (96.5% male, mean 4.5 m). A further 66 individual whale sharks were identified from local operators, and data mined on social media platforms. The satellite telemetry data showed that the whale sharks moved broadly, with one individual moving to Sabah, Malaysia, before returning to the site <1 year later. Similarly, another tagged whale shark returned to the site at a similar periodicity after reaching the Malay-Filipino border. One individual whale shark first identified in East Kalimantan, Indonesia by a citizen scientist was resighted in Honda Bay ~3.5 years later. Honda Bay is a globally important site for the endangered whale shark with connectivity to two neighbouring countries, highlighting the need for international cooperation to manage the species.

Sci Rep 9, 17209 (2019) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-53718-w


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