Whale Shark stranding

December 27, 2012 by dyertrust

On Thursday, 14th December 2012,
the DICT was notified of a Whale Shark which has stranded in Pearly Beach.

DICT Biologists and Volunteers rushed out to the site to assess the situation. We are always optimistic about strandings, hoping that we can manage to help the animal back into the ocean. Unfortunately, upon arrival, we found a dead 8.5m Whale Shark, estimated at 2 tons, stranded on the high tide mark on Castle Beach.

Our team collected data, measurements and samples of this animal, and during this process they observed no obvious signs of damage externally. It might be possible that this specimen stranded from thermal shock, or lack of thermal tolerance to the icy 10 degrees water temperature which was recorded off of this area on this day.

In 2010, a Whale Shark stranded in the same area on Pearly Beach. This happened under similar environmental conditions, also during a dramatic drop in water temperature caused by vigorous upwelling and driven by and intense south easterly which is characteristic of our December wind patterns.

Strandings and sightings of this species are uncommon in our waters and area. Whale Sharks are predominantly tropical and sub tropical species reported mostly from our South African East Coast up into the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique and Tanzania however, a few specimens have been recorded off of Cape Point historically.

It is always a sad sight to see such a magnificent animal stranded. Very little is known about their breeding habits and where large females go. Due to this data deficiency it is imperative that pictures taken of the whale sharks flanks, just behind the gills, is sent off
to researchers who can positively identify the individual through their unique spot patterns on these sections.

Special thanks to Alison Kock from Shark Spotters for notifying us of this stranded animal any member of the public who encounters any form of stranded creatures on our Overberg Coastline can contact the DICT to enable us to gather, record and document these strandings on 082 907 5607, or for any queries please contact us at office@dict.org.za .