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PeerJ. 2018 Jul 24;6:e5231. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5231. eCollection 2018.

Satellite tracking of juvenile whale sharks in the Sulu and Bohol Seas, Philippines.

Author information

1
Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines, Jagna, Bohol, Philippines.
2
Marine Megafauna Foundation, Truckee, CA, United States of America.
3
Tubbataha Management Office, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines.

Abstract

The whale shark Rhincodon typus was uplisted to 'Endangered' in the 2016 IUCN Red List due to >50% population decline, largely caused by continued exploitation in the Indo-Pacific. Though the Philippines protected the whale shark in 1998, concerns remain due to continued take in regional waters. In light of this, understanding the movements of whale sharks in the Philippines, one of the most important hotspots for the species, is vital. We tagged 17 juvenile whale sharks with towed SPOT5 tags from three general areas in the Sulu and Bohol Seas: Panaon Island in Southern Leyte, northern Mindanao, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP). The sharks all remained in Philippine waters for the duration of tracking (6-126 days, mean 64). Individuals travelled 86-2,580 km (mean 887 km) at a mean horizontal speed of 15.5 ± 13.0 SD km day-1. Whale sharks tagged in Panaon Island and Mindanao remained close to shore but still spent significant time off the shelf (>200 m). Sharks tagged at TRNP spent most of their time offshore in the Sulu Sea. Three of twelve whale sharks tagged in the Bohol Sea moved through to the Sulu Sea, whilst two others moved east through the Surigao Strait to the eastern coast of Leyte. One individual tagged at TRNP moved to northern Palawan, and subsequently to the eastern coast of Mindanao in the Pacific Ocean. Based on inferred relationships with temperature histograms, whale sharks performed most deep dives (>200 m) during the night, in contrast to results from whale sharks elsewhere. While all sharks stayed in national waters, our results highlight the high mobility of juvenile whale sharks and demonstrate their connectivity across the Sulu and Bohol Seas, highlighting the importance of the area for this endangered species.

KEYWORDS:

Connectivity; Distribution; Ecology; Endangered; Movement patterns; Satellite tagging; Telemetry; Tubbataha

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