Whale sharks found at Red Sea gathering spot

Originally published 26 August 2014 on Nature Middle East.

Juvenile whale sharks gravitate towards the central coast of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea near Al-Lith to a gathering point. Scientists hope this will help improve conservation efforts of the vulnerable fish.

The preferred site for juvenile whale sharks off the central coast of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea has been identified near the city of Al-Lith.

The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is the largest fish in the world, growing up to 15 meters long. Scientists hope the discovery of this site will improve conservation efforts in the region after the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified whale sharks as “vulnerable” in 2000.

“In any conservation effort, it is important to protect juveniles long enough to ensure that they can reach a reproductive age or size,” says researcher Michael Berumen from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). “Whale sharks are inherently difficult to study because of their potential long-range movements, unknown breeding patterns, and the amount of time that they spend below the surface. Protecting mating grounds would be a critical step in improving conservation for the species.”

Nature Middle East, August 2014.