International Whale Shark Day


It is celebrated on August 30 each year since 2008, the year in which the II International Whale Shark Conference took place in Mexico with the aim of promoting the study and preservation of the largest fish in the world.


Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)

It is the largest fish in the world with an average of 40 feet in length, but it can reach up to 65 feet and weigh up to 34 tons. It is estimated that it has inhabited the oceans for 60 million years. It is currently found in all the world’s tropical seas and is believed to migrate with currents. It is characterized by its gray coloration with white dots and lines distributed along the body. These spots are unique in each individual and they allow us to differentiate one from another. The few specimens that reach adulthood can live up to 150 years.

The whale shark does not have developed teeth, it feeds through a filtration system similar to that of mysticetus whales. The whale shark opens its mouth, which can measure up to 3 feet wide, to the maximum to let in large amounts of water. The large sip of water then passes through internal filter plates that retain small prey. Afterwards, the filtered water exits through the gills. Its main food is plankton, although it can also consume small crustaceans and fish.


The Whale Shark and the Human Being

The whale shark is the most docile species of shark and does not represent a threat to humans. Its nature is peaceful and even playful, approaches to humans have been reported in which the whale shark seeks contact.

The first identified specimen was harpooned and captured off the coast of South Africa in 1828. However, very little was known about this species until a few decades ago. For example, the total population of the species is unknown, but it is considered to be endangered.

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Threats and Conservation

In the last 75 years the population has decreased statistically by 50% worldwide, due to its natural predators: the orca, the white shark and the tiger shark. In addition, their slow, shallow, and inshore swimms make them easy targets for fishermen and prone to collisions with boats.

It is also threatened by marine spills of toxic products, hydrocarbon spills and plastic waste, added to its late sexual maturity and sporadic mating that make it difficult for its populations to recover.

Its presence is an indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem, so if we protect them indirectly, we are also protecting other species that share habitat with the whale shark. Although it is possible to join whale shark swim tours, fortunately this activity has come to be strictly regulated.

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This is How we Care for the Whale Shark at Sunset World

If you join a tour to swim with the whale shark, we recommend following these tips to make your experience as fun as it is respectful:

  • Hire the services of a guide authorized by SEMARNAT, which is the authority that controls the number of visitors to prevent whale sharks from becoming stressed.
  • Do not obstruct the course of the whale shark, either by swimming or with the boat
  • It is forbidden to touch the whale sharks. You must stay at least 6 feet away from the head and 12 from the tail
  • Swim quietly, without splashing with the fins and without shouting
  • Do not throw garbage into the water or try to feed the fish
  • Use only biodegradable sunscreens to avoid damaging the ecosystem and the whale shark’s food
  • Do not use flash

Thank you!


Where and When to Swim with the Whale Shark in Mexico?

The whale shark passing season in Mexico is from May to September, the same in the Caribbean as in the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez.

The ideal places to do it are: Holbox and Isla Contoy in the Caribbean, and Bahía de los Ángeles and La Paz in the Sea of Cortez.