Mote Marine Lab needs your help to find whale sharks - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Mote Marine Lab needs your help to find whale sharks

Posted: Updated:
Courtesy: Mote Marine Laboratory Courtesy: Mote Marine Laboratory
SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

They are the largest fish in the world: whale sharks! And Mote Marine scientists need help finding them.

One of these harmless giants was spotted off the coast of Venice last month, and scientists are eager to know if more are around.

Scientists say there's still a lot to learn about these elusive creatures.

It's very rare to find them in the waters off southwest Florida, so if some are hanging around here, scientists want to know why.

With their polka-dotted bodies they're unmistakable, but don't let the big fin fool you, whale sharks are harmless.

"They're the largest fish that's ever existed," said Dr. Robert Hueter from Mote Marine Lab.

Hueter is an expert on whale sharks.

He says these elegant giants eat plankton. They can grow to around 45 feet in length and weigh several tons.

A pod of whale sharks was spotted in the waters off Sarasota in 2010, and one creature was seen last month off the coast of Venice. But Hueter says overall, it's rare to see whale sharks in these parts.

"We see them so sporadically that we're trying to figure out what their cycle is here," he said.

Dr. Hueter says whale sharks are known to swim as close as a mile from shore, but scientists don't know much about their behavior in this area of the Gulf, so they're hoping you can help.

Mote Marine lab is asking boaters to keep an eye out. The scientists want to tag them to learn more about their migrating patterns in this area of the gulf.

Hueter said, "[We can] take that data and compare it to other sightings and start to build up an understanding of where these animals are off the coast, what their cycles are, when they appear, how many animals, what their behavior is , these are things we can't possibly do ourselves."

But Hueter says if you're lucky enough to see one, savor the moment.

"It's one of the spectacles of nature to see an animal that big," said Hueter. "People who are out there that see whale sharks, take the time to enjoy this. You'll probably never see it the rest of your life."

And after you're done soaking in the experience, be sure to tell a scientist about it.

Officials want as many details as you can provide- the time, date, number of whale sharks, and a precise location if possible.

If you're able to take pictures, that'd be great too.

If you're lucky to spot these whale sharks, call Mote's Center for Shark Research at 941-388-1827.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Are background checks enough for Florida teachers?

    Are background checks enough for Florida teachers?

    Friday, April 18 2014 7:41 PM EDT2014-04-18 23:41:35 GMT

    In an effort to weed out potential perverts, Florida law requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks before school districts hire employees that will have any contact with children.

    In an effort to weed out potential perverts, Florida law requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks before school districts hire employees that will have any contact with children.


  • Pasco mix-up sends registration notices to wrong drivers

    Pasco mix-up sends registration notices to wrong drivers

    Friday, April 18 2014 6:02 PM EDT2014-04-18 22:02:51 GMT
    The vehicle registration information of hundreds of drivers in Pasco County were sent to the wrong person in a mix-up that led to the firing of a contractor.
    The vehicle registration information of hundreds of drivers in Pasco County were sent to the wrong person in a mix-up that led to the firing of a contractor.
  • Flushable wipes, not so flushable says Tampa's wastewater officials

    Flushable wipes, not so flushable says Tampa's wastewater officials

    Friday, April 18 2014 3:52 PM EDT2014-04-18 19:52:20 GMT
    Personal wipes, baby wipes, face wipes, flushable wipes. They are all designed to help us deal with delicate issues. But the wipes themselves are actually pretty sturdy and increasingly local water systems are finding they are creating costly problems.
    Personal wipes, baby wipes, face wipes, flushable wipes. They are all designed to help us deal with delicate issues. But the wipes themselves are actually pretty sturdy and increasingly local water systems are finding they are creating costly problems.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Two killed, two injured in Tampa park shooting

    Two killed, two injured in Tampa park shooting

    Monday, April 21 2014 2:23 AM EDT2014-04-21 06:23:07 GMT
    Nico CrawfordNico Crawford
    Two people were killed and two injured in a shooting at Al Barnes Park on 32nd Street in east Tampa on Sunday. Zedmon Culpepper, 17, and Nico Charles Crawford, 22, died at the scene, Tampa police said. The two injured victims, whose names were not released, were in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital late Sunday.
    Two people were killed and two injured in a shooting at Al Barnes Park on 32nd Street in east Tampa on Sunday. Zedmon Culpepper, 17, and Nico Charles Crawford, 22, died at the scene, Tampa police said. The two injured victims, whose names were not released, were in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital late Sunday.
  • Clearwater man arrested for fatally shooting girlfriend

    Clearwater man arrested for fatally shooting girlfriend

    Monday, April 21 2014 12:25 AM EDT2014-04-21 04:25:57 GMT
    Police say the shooting occurred at this home at approximately 1 a.m. Sunday.Police say the shooting occurred at this home at approximately 1 a.m. Sunday.
    A Clearwater man has been charged with second-degree murder in the early morning shooting death of his girlfriend. Alexander Richardson, 24, of 2368 Hillcreek Circle E., was booked Sunday afternoon in the Pinellas County Jail in connection with the death of Josephine Nicole Austria, 51.
    From their Facebook pages, Alexander Richardson, 24, and Josephine Nicole Austria, 51, appeared to be madly in love. But something went wrong early Sunday morning, leaving Austria dead and Richardson charged with her murder.



  • Pinellas NAACP leader to seek Democratic nomination for U.S. Dist. 13 seat

    Pinellas NAACP leader to seek Democratic nomination for U.S. Dist. 13 seat

    Sunday, April 20 2014 10:47 PM EDT2014-04-21 02:47:20 GMT
    The Rev. Manuel Sykes is running for the U.S. House seat in Pinellas County that Democrat Alex Sink decided not to vie for against Republican David Jolly. Jolly won the District 13 seat in a special election against Sink this year, after the death of longtime Congressman C.W. Bill Young. Sykes, the president of the Pinellas NAACP and the pastor at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, told News Channel 8 he made the decision after Sink decided not to run. “I just want to make...
    The Rev. Manuel Sykes is running for the U.S. House seat in Pinellas County that Democrat Alex Sink decided not to vie for against Republican David Jolly. Jolly won the District 13 seat in a special election against Sink this year, after the death of longtime Congressman C.W. Bill Young. Sykes, the president of the Pinellas NAACP and the pastor at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, told News Channel 8 he made the decision after Sink decided not to run. “I just want to make...
Powered by WorldNow

1336 Augusta West Parkway
Augusta, GA 30909

Telephone: 706.722.6664
Email: talkback6@wjbf.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.