Whale Shark Project
Whale Shark Project © Alessio Viora, Marine Photobank.

Project Aware Logo.The Shark Trust and Project AWARE are working together to encourage water users all around the world to submit images of their Whale Shark sightings, which will help researchers to better understand this  vulnerable and highly migratory species.

The Project relies on photo-identification - a powerful non-invasive field technique for studying live sharks in their natural environment. Whale Sharks display distinguishable and recognisable identification markings, which may be in the form of natural markings (pigmentation) or acquired markings (scars, injuries), which are unique to individual animals. Each Whale Shark also has a unique, distinctive pattern of light pigmented spots along the forward flanks and it is possible to visually identify an individual Whale Shark from a single photo.

The photo-ID project makes it possible to re-identify individuals and as matches are made we can make inferences about geographic movements over different time scales. This can provide valuable information about migrations, population structure and feeding behaviour, which can be used in planning shark conservation and management measures. Additional data (such as shark size, maturity and behaviour) recorded along with each photo-id image can also provide information relating to growth rate, age, size at maturity and reproductive behaviour.

So if you’re planning on going diving with Whale Sharks why not take part in the Whale Shark Project and help us to gain a better understanding of the world's largest fish.

Find out more about photo-id and how to take perfect pictures to contribute to the Whale Shark project. Once you’ve submitted a photograph, researchers will try to match your shark with other entries in the International Whale Shark database, perhaps telling us something more about your shark's movements.