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1000th Rare Whale Shark Found
A whale shark in Sea of Cortez, La Paz, Mexico, 2006

The 1000th specimen of the world's largest and most cryptic fish, the whale shark, has been identified thanks to global efforts by hundreds of 'citizen scientists' and eco-tourists.

ECOCEAN, the group behind a unique, award-winning* conservation effort to save the world's threatened whale sharks, today announced the identification of the 1000th identified whale shark in its online Library which shares data from scientists and ecotourists worldwide.

"Its a major milestone, for science and for conservation," says ECOCEAN project leader Brad Norman, of Perth WA. "And it was achieved with the help of ordinary people worldwide who want to study and protect this wonderful creature."

ECOCEAN tracks individual whale sharks throughout the world's oceans using a web-based photo-ID library of the unique spots that pattern the animals' skins. Researchers and eco-tourists submit images, which are logged to reveal a picture of whale shark movements and behaviour over time.

The 1000th shark was reported by a major contributor to the ECOCEAN Photo-ID Library, Simon Pierce, a marine biologist studying the sharks that visit Mozambique. It was a 6.5m male. Simon has contributed more than 100 sharks from his three year study in Mozambique.

"We can expect there to be substantially more than 1000 sharks alive in the world today. But, even so it is still a very tiny global population that needs close monitoring to ensure its survival.

Participation in the ECOCEAN Library has increased dramatically in recent years. It took three years to reach the 500th shark milestone but only one additional year to reach 1000. This is evidence of willingness by people worldwide to use the Library to study this cryptic giant.

Brad Norman notes: "We're calling on the public worldwide to become 'citizen scientists' and help us study this wonderful animal by logging their images and sighting details on www.whaleshark.org

"This will build a better understanding of this threatened species and help save the largest fish in the ocean from extinction"

Brad may be contacted for comment on 0414 953 627

*Brad Norman won a Rolex Award for Enterprise for this work in 2006. ECOCEAN won a Sun Microsystems Duke's Choice Award for Innovative Use of Java Technology in 2005 and the Peter Benchley Award for Shark Conservation (Science) 2007

The '1000th shark' - http://www.whaleshark.org/sharks.jsp?shark=MZ-174




 

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