May is the month where almost all the big animals that annualy visit the Baja California Sur region leave: the Humpbacks, the Grays, the Blues and last but not least the biggest fish in the Ocean the Whale Sharks.
As incredible as it sounds the research on Whale Sharks only started in 1995, so no wonder there is so little known about them! Scientist think they live up to 80 to 100 years and the biggest ever misured was well over 60 feet and weighted over 25.000 kilos. We also know were they most likely hang out as in certain time of the year they congregate in areas rich of food such as the bay of La Paz: every year the Ocean currents forces the nutrients up the Sea of Cortez while the North winds push it back down into the biggest bay of the peninsula, and there is where around 100 sharks pay visit every year. Researchers are still unsure where the sharks go after they leave, Whale Shark expert Darren Whitehead tells us that there is connectivity between Bahia Los Angeles (north of Loreto), Puerto Vallarta and eventually even with the archipelag of Socorro, but no evidence has been collected since tagging has not yet happened due to the high expenses involved. Darren just recently started his research project and he’s working on his PhD: with the help of interns who come from all over the world he’s working on collecting as many data as possible to further understand this beautiful creature.
This plancton feeding animal is classified as a vulnerable species, meaning that there are concerns about the health status of the population worldwide. Biggest threats is the human and its activity, the good news is that targeted fishing is declining, nevertheless big ships such as cointainer transporter, illegal nets, bycatch and Ocean contamination are still slowing down the process of recovery.
A day excursion, between October and March, to La Paz is well worth the ride when you get the chance to swim next to gentle giant of the Ocean, we surely recommend to choose a reputable company, eventually one that provides a marine biologist specialized in whale sharks: the ammount of information provided will be for sure an added value to your tour. Don’t choose the cheepest operator as they probably will not respect the rules nor the animal, make the right choice and enjoy an amazing trip. And a last tip: if you still have a spare hour I defenitely recommend to pay visit to the “Museo de la Ballena” (the whale museum), located on the malecon in La Paz it just opened after being remodeled and it delivers additional quality information on all the big animals present in this region.
Article written for the Destino Magazine June 2016 edition.
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