To celebrate International Whale Shark Day, Rainforest Trust would like to acknowledge the incredible work of the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Sanctuary in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica. In May 2018, we worked with our local partner Misión Tiburón to safeguard a portion of the unique Golfo Dulce ecosystem, one of only four tropical fjords in the world. This shark sanctuary designation is the first of its kind in Costa Rica and protects key habitat for a number of iconic and threatened species. In addition, it is a hotspot for seasonal aggregations of the Endangered Whale Shark.
Whale Shark aggregation is a critical period during which a large group of individuals cluster to feed and rest. This event only occurs in a handful of locations around the world. Aggregation activities in this species remain a bit of a mystery to scientists, but a recent study surmised that only certain areas provide “the ideal setting for the filter-feeding sharks to search for food in both deep water and the warm shallows, where they can bask near the surface and warm up their huge bodies.” However, areas like these are in danger from increasing human interference. Shallow waters leave Whale Sharks’ large bodies exposed to boat strikes and hunters. Access to protected, peaceful waters to continue this pattern is vital to the survival of these gentle giants.
For the safety of the Whale Shark and other threatened animals in the Golfo Dulce ecosystem, the sanctuary bans all exploitation and illegal capture of marine life. And to ensure the long-term protection and preservation of the resident species, the sanctuary will be expanded into a larger 172,974-acre protected area in the future.
Header image: Endangered Whale Shark. Photo by Arturo de Frias Marques.