Whale shark research is vitally important because without a good basic knowledge of whale sharks movements and habitat requirements it is difficult to put adequate measures in place to protect them. Unhelpfully for researchers, whale sharks spend much of their lives out of our reach, making them a very difficult animal to study!
Most studies on whale sharks have to coincide with short, seasonal aggregation periods where the sharks come together to feed for just a few weeks or months. The MWSRP are very lucky in this respect, whale sharks are encountered all year round in the Maldives making this an ideal and unique location to study many aspects of this mysterious animal.
MWSRP's research has set out to answer a set of straight forward questions about the whale shark that we hope will help policy makers in the Maldives and elsewhere to design and implement the most suitable measures to protect them
What are the characteristics of the whale sharks found in the Maldives? We use Photo-idenifcation and observational research to establish a rough idea as to the number of sharks visting the Maldives and also the sex, length and growth rates of these sharks.
What are Maldivian whale sharks critical habitats? How far do the travel and how deep to they go? We have teamed up with experts to use telemetry tagging to learn more about where and why whale sharks live when we can’t see them.
How related are whale sharks in the Maldives with those elsewhere and where does whale shark reproduction take place? We have contributed to international genetic analysis studies that are attempting to find out whether whale sharks found in different regions, countries or ocean basins mix and mate with each other. And If they do? When and where does this happen?
How many of the whale sharks in the Maldives have injuries, how are they caused and how fast do they heal? Unfortunately the majority of whale sharks in the Maldives have injuries and scars, so how do they happen and how fast will the whale sharks recover, if at all?
What is the cultural and economic value of the whale shark to the Maldives? What is the value of the whale shark to us? What would be the cost of it becoming extinct?