3rd September 2011 was the date that saw the last whale shark spotted in Qatari waters for last year’s season. In the 2012 season, the sharks have so far been hanging around for much longer, with sizeable aggregations throughout September. The last reported aggregation in Qatari waters was reported by a Maersk platform worker on October 8th. Have they now left the area? Only time will tell…
This season we managed to get into the field a few times in September and gather some important information regarding the aggregations which is building nicely on the 2011 season. As we learn more and more about the sharks we are able to better predict when and where they will occur which is increasing the efficiency of our data collection.
October 8th-11th saw the first regional shark conservation workshop, which was held in Dubai. Shark scientists from around the world and regional government representatives gathered to discuss local shark issues. We were invited to give a talk on the whale shark research project, which went down very well with the attendees and sparked much interest in our regional whale sharks.
Outside of Qatar whale sharks have been few in number. October/November is usually a good time to encounter whale sharks in the Musandam and other regions of Oman. We did receive a few encounters though from divers, with one dive group reporting a huge estimated 10m whale shark from the Musandam. I am predicting encounters to be on the increase through November but we will have to wait and see.
The weather has changed dramatically since late September and throughout October, with air temperatures dropping by 10 degrees and coastal water temperatures starting to slowly reduce too. As the Gulf environment enters the winter months it is hard to predict what will happen to the whale shark encounters, but, we have a few satellite tags that are due to stay on until January and so hopefully this year we will find out exactly what the sharks do in the colder months; fingers crossed.