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A WHALE SHARK!? In Singapore? No way!

By Marla Lise

This 3m long baby was seen swimming of our coasts in August last year. The last time a whale shark was spotted in these waters was 1964 … and then it was shot. Unfortunately, the local fishermen were not so thrilled to have a fish the size of a small torpedo near their nets.

Baby Whale Shark with Mother

Psst, did you say 3m long baby?

Yes, baby! These fish can grow up to 12m long and there have been speculations that one measured 18.8m.

Why do you keep calling it a fish if it’s a whale shark?

Whale sharks are fish! Unlike whales, that are mammals, whale sharks (Rhincodon typus)

come from the Rhincodontidae family. For their gargantuan size, these friendly giants eat only plankton, which are organisms that you need a microscope to see. Their huge mouths act like a sieve, filtering gallons upon gallons of water in a single swallow, allowing them to consume almost half a million calories at once. In order to get mouthfuls like these though, whale sharks need to be constantly on the move, looking for huge swarms of plankton that move with the ocean currents. Because of this, they cover vast distances as they migrate around the world. The largest journey by a whale shark ever recorded was 20,000km. Females have been known to swim 67km in a single day.

In 2013, I got the opportunity to volunteer at the Whale Shark & Oceanic Research Center in Utila, Honduras. Utila was an amazing place to be during the whale shark season. Everyday you’d hear people coming back from dives saying that they saw these amazing creatures. I finally got the opportunity to see one but I wasn’t as happy as I thought I would be. When a captain sees a whale shark, he immediately calls other boats. They are paid an extra sum of money for whale shark sightings. Before long, the animal is surrounded by boats, engines pumping diesel into the water and excited swimmers waiting to jump in for that IG worthy picture of them swimming next to a whale shark. This is my only photo of the animal. NGOs like the WSORC make sure that these occurrences do not happen frequently. They put in place guidelines and education programs so that tourists and captains remain responsible.