Southern Boating

Whale Sharks

Mote Marine tracks Whale Sharks

In mid-June, Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory got word that boaters were watching whale sharks on the surface just 20 miles west of Manatee and Sarasota Counties. That’s fairly close to the Gulf shoreline for this species, the largest of all sharks with some as large as 40 feet. The polka-dotted whale shark doesn’t eat other fish (or humans). It’s a wide-mouth filter feeder that survives mostly on plankton and fish eggs.

Mote researchers grabbed their gear and sped off in a 42-foot Yellowfin powered by three 400-horsepower Mercury Verado outboards. The team located five whale sharks from 20 to 40 miles offshore and took underwater and above-surface photos and videos to record each sighting. Furthermore, they were able to get close enough to tag two of the sharks with real-time tracking devices. In about six months, the implants will self-release and float to the surface. Mote specialists then will be able to remotely download timelines of water depths and temperatures.

One of the tagged whale sharks was about 25-feet in length and nicknamed Minnie. Yes, as in Minnie Mouse. This was a salute to the Walt Disney Company for its financial support of the implant project. Another, about 16 feet, is nicknamed Colt for Colt Nagler who assisted the team. His father, Captain Wylie Nagler, owner of Yellowfin Yachts, supplied and captained the fast, spacious vessel that helped make the expedition successful.

By Bill AuCoin Southern Boating August 2018

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