Long-term membership of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in coastal aggregations in Seychelles and Djibouti

Published on 24 June 2011.

David Rowat, Katie Brooks, Abi March, Ciara McCarten, Daniel Jouannet, Luke Riley, Gareth Jeffreys, Morgan Perri, Michel Vely and Bruno Pardigon.


In coastal waters of several locations globally, whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) form seasonal aggregations, most of which largely comprise juvenile males of 4–8 m length. Evaluation of the period that individuals stay within these size- and age-specific groupings will clarify our understanding of the transition between life-stages in this species and how this might affect their long-term conservation. Long-term photo-identification studies in Seychelles and Djibouti provided data to evaluate this. The Seychelles aggregation had 443 individuals averaging 5.8 m identified between 2001 and 2009; however, the Djibouti aggregation comprised smaller individuals of 3.7 m mean length with 297 individuals identified between 2003 and 2010. In Seychelles, 27% of individuals identified in 2001 were seen again in 2009, while in Djibouti none of the whale sharks identified in 2003 were seen in 2010, although 13% from 2004 were. This suggests that membership periods in the Djibouti aggregation are shorter than in the other juvenile aggregations, such as in Seychelles. Continued photo-identification monitoring of other Indian Ocean aggregations might in time show the next location of these young sharks’ life-cycle and thereby allow development of informed national and regional management plans.

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(6) 621-627 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF10135

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