Recognized as the world’s largest cartilaginous fish, the whale shark has received a lot of scientific attention in recent years, although a great deal is still unknown with regards to its history and behavioral patterns. Furthermore, tourist activities related to whale sharks have become extremely popular in recent times and have created a highly lucrative and important industry for local operators.
In Mexico, whale shark research is well established in Baja California’s Sea of Cortez, offering a platform of opportunities for volunteers, students and the general public to help with the conservation and the research regarding whale sharks in this region. Often founded by passionate ocean conservationists who come from a marine biology background, these projects have gained rapid support during the last few years.
La Paz, the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, offers tours oriented to the study of these magnificent creatures, and from October to March visitors can help researchers with ongoing projects as these animals congregate in the waters of the Sea of Cortez. Tagging, naming and behavioral observation and study are some of the activities on offer.
Trips cover a range of environments such as the Bay of La Paz and the Espiritu Santo Island sanctuary, where huge colonies of sea lions make their home year round. Trips must be arranged in advance and these only occur when the weather conditions are right. Costs generally contribute directly toward the purchase and maintenance of radio tags and other research expenses.
If scientific research regarding whale shark behavior, and the idea of positively contributing through ecotourism is something that interests you, be sure to invest your time and effort in the conservation of this charismatic marine species and allow yourself the privilege of spending quality time with this enigmatic monster of the sea.