Quicksilver Group NewsNovember 4th, 2014
Whale Shark swims with Silverswift Divers
Divers aboard Cairns-based dive and snorkel vessel, Silverswift, had the rare encounter of swimming with a 5 metre whale shark yesterday.
At the first reef site of the day, Coral Gardens at Flynn Reef, Silverswift Dive instructor Taku Utsunomiya said the whale shark swam close for around 6 minutes swimming around them at depths of 2 to 12 metres in a very special and awesome experience.
A whale shark, believed to be the same, was also sighted from Pro Dive Cairns’ liveaboard vessel Scuba Pro just 3 days earlier at nearby Milln Reef.
More often associated with the northern waters of Western Australia, whale shark encounters on the Great Barrier Reef have been more frequent in recent years with several reported sightings.
As the largest fish in the sea reaching lengths of over 12 metres, whale sharks are docile fish feeding mostly on plankton, crab larvae and jellyfish, which they scoop up with their colossal gaping mouths while swimming close to the water’s surface. They are currently listed as a vulnerable species and prior to the mid 1980s there were less than 350 confirmed reports of whale sharks world wide.
Researchers are able to identify individuals from photographs by analysing the patterns of markings on their bodies. The whale shark’s back and sides are gray to brown with white spots among pale vertical and horizontal stripes, and its belly is white. The flattened head sports a blunt snout above its mouth with short barbels protruding from its nostrils. Its two dorsal fins are set rearward on its body, which ends in a large dual-lobbed caudal fin (or tail).