Saturday, February 7, 2009

Gulf Whale Sharks - "Instant Tourism"

We blogged about "newly discovered" Whale shark aggregations in the Gulf of Mexico back in August of 2008.

These unique and seasonal sites have long been known to the shark research community since 2002-but are just now getting the major media's attention.

Whale sharks represent "instant tourism" opportunities for many communities across the planet. The ease in which these animals allow for human interaction and the relative benign nature of these critters make for exciting shark encounters. For the still devastated Gulf Coast region local dive shops have been slow to look into "shark tourism gold" off their shores:

NEW ORLEANS — It was such an unusual sight that the commercial fishing crew in the northern Gulf of Mexico took an hour out of their work day to count the whale sharks swimming around and even rubbing their sandpaper-like backs against the boat.

The crew stopped at 44 to avoid double-counting the dark-bodied fish, some up to 50 feet long, opening and closing their wide mouths as they vacuumed in plankton, fish eggs or small fish southwest of Morgan City, La.

It was the largest sighting in a record year for a study of the world's largest fish that began in 2002 at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Miss.

"As far as your eye could see in every direction, you just saw fish after fish after fish after fish," said David Wesley Underwood of Pensacola, Fla., a deckhand on his uncle's boat, the Norman B.

Complete Story

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