A short note on the horizontal and vertical movements of a whale shark, Rhincodon typus, tracked by satellite telemetry in the South China Sea

Yamin Wang, Wei Li, Xiaoguang Zeng, Yunchen Cui
Integrative Zoology 2012, 7 (1): 94-8
Whale sharks, a global migratory species, are often reported entangled in fishing nets in coastal areas of China. The effectiveness of conservation measures has been constrained by very limited knowledge on their movements and preferred habitats in the coastal areas of China. For the first time, we tracked the movements of 2 whale sharks by satellite telemetry in Mainland China. The tracking results of 1 whale shark revealed that it travelled in the South China Sea in a south-eastern direction, parallel to the eastern coast of Vietnam. Total distance travelled was 1018 km, in approximately 74 days, with a mean speed of 14 km per day. It appeared to head towards the cool upwelling zones in southern Vietnam at the time of the tag's detachment. In our study, it was observed that this whale shark was a surface dweller and spent approximately 45% of its time above 10 m water depth and 90% of its time above 50 m depth. It also tended to stay in water temperatures between 27 and 30 °C, and was rarely recorded in water below 20 °C. This preliminary study indicates the importance of shallow waters as the foraging habitat for whale sharks, and has implications for their management and conservation.

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