Massive Whale Sharks – Mozambique

With that feeling of summer in the air – (normally Cape Town winters are wet and grey, so all this sunshine is totally unusual) – I can’t get away from the water!  Mozambique has also been in the news a bit this week with President Armando Guebuza reflecting on the role of tourism in eliminating poverty.  So it seemed appropriate to look at a “new” tourism angle for Mozambique, with it’s almost 1,800 miles (3,000km) of coastline.

I am told that a highlight for any serious diver is getting a glimpse of the elusive Whale Shark.  One place on earth that you find these huge fish is along Mozambique’s coastline.  Whale Sharks inhabit tropical and warm temperate seas, so around Africa’s coastline you find them in South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania’s islands of Mafia, Pemba and Zanzibar.

The size of us in relation to the Whale Shark!

Despite their huge size Whale Sharks are no threat to man.  They can reach almost 40 feet (12m) in length but usually average out around 26 feet (8m).  They are filter feeders eating plankton, algae, krill and other small marine creatures and amazingly have around 3,000 small teeth.  They’re active feeders (can feed while moving) but can also feed when stationary (unlike the Basking Shark which has to swim to force water across its gills for feeding purposes).

The massive Filter Feeder

Fins help these massive creatures steer themselves through the water.  But these fins have also become a sought after commodity in many parts of the world, especially Asia where shark fin soup is in high demand and considered a delicacy.  This is becoming a problem for conservationists, especially in a country like Mozambique, which has only one vessel patrolling its extensive coastline.

The population of Whale Sharks swimming through our oceans is unknown and they’re considered a vulnerable species throughout the world.  Still hunted in some areas of course, there are many countries that have imposed a ban on all fishing, selling, importing and exporting of Whale Sharks.  Only reaching sexual maturity between 25 and 30 years, not reproducing many times in their lives and the threat of human behavior makes them susceptible to dwindling numbers.  Their life span is between 70 and 100 years.  They are ovoviviparous, meaning the eggs remain in the female body and she gives birth to live young.

Although sightings are never guaranteed like any wildlife really, if Mozambique looks after this attraction properly, it could become a massive tourist attraction for them!

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