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ctvnews.ca 15 May, 2022 01:30 am

Whale sharks potentially threatened by large vessels: study

Whale sharks potentially threatened by large vessels: study
A new study out of the United Kingdom is pointing to collisions with large marine vessels as a possible reason for the years-long decline in whale shark populations.

Marine biologists from the Marine Biological Association and University of Southampton led the study, started in 2019 and published earlier this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which tracked the movements of ships and whale sharks around the world.The team satellite-tracked the movements of 348 individual whale sharks, tagged between 2005 and 2019 in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, and mapped out their various "hotspots."The maritime shipping industry that allows us to source a variety of everyday products from all over the world may be causing the decline of whale sharks, which are a hugely important species in our oceans," Freya Womersley, a University of Southampton PhD researcher who led the study as part of the Global Shark Movement Project, said in a press release.Described as "slow-moving ocean giants," the researchers said whale sharks can grow up to 20 metres in length and help regulate plankton levels in the ocean by feeding on microscopic zooplankton.

Since whale sharks spend a large amount of time in surface water and gather in coastal regions, experts thought collisions with ships could be causing "substantial" deaths.The researchers suggest this is likely due to whale sharks being struck and killed, and sinking to the ocean floor.

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