The Indian Ocean - coastal waters
The tropical Indian Ocean is home to the Spice Islands. Characterised by beautiful sandy beaches, fringing coral reefs and coastal mangrove forests, this is a vibrant nursery area for marine life, such as whale sharks, crabs, seahorses and a great variety of fish. The coastal areas are where humans have the most direct impact on the ocean's resources.
Whale sharks, off Mafia Island
Very little is known about the world's largest fish. Weighing up to 35 tonnes, the whale shark has poor eyesight and relies on its sense of smell to track prey. Off Mafia Island, whale sharks congregate in large numbers in order to feed.
These gentle giants have the thickest skin of any animal and each has a unique spot pattern on its side. Comparing these 'fingerprints' with an ongoing whale shark ID databank will help scientists discover if the whale sharks have visited before and if there is a pattern to their visits. Some may travel as many as 13,000km (8,000 miles) to visit rich feeding grounds. The water is enriched by nutrients that have washed out to sea from the African river deltas.
|Importance:||Learning more about whale shark behaviour could be crucial to their conservation.|
|Access:||Finding large congregations of whale sharks is always a challenge and for this reason accessing any site where they gather is not easy.|