Outside of our beautiful Island is a large body of water called the Canal of Yucatan. Not only is this home to some of the most beautiful turquoise beaches in Mexico, the canal of Yucatan also supports a nutrient filled environment where an amazingly rich and diverse animal ecosystem thrives.
Isla Mujeres is globally renowned as the #1 location for consistent Whale Shark sightings. This Island City is perfectly situated to encounter dolphins that frequent the area year-round and often travel past Isla Mujeres on their way in-and-out of the area in search of their preferred prey: rays, conch shells,squids,turtles, mackerel and herring. We are also directly in infront of the seasonal feeding grounds of Whale sharks Mantas and tuna that feed on plankton.
National Geographic estimates as of july 2018 that the same 300 whale sharks return each year to filter feed on plankton to then return to the deeps to breed each fall.
We’re also witnessing a spectacular revival of Mako Shark, Oceanic Dolphins and Sail fish sightings. fished to only 10% of their former numbers by 1970, whale sharks are aswell returning to this environment to seasonally feed on small fish and abundant plankton due to the massive currents striking enormous ridges underneath propelling rich nutrients to the surface.
Whale sharks have a unique dot lined shaped skin that we use as a finger print to identify them and together with researchers and other whale shark conservation programs, we have been able to photo-document over 500 Whale sharks (as of 2018). These ‘gentle giants’ are often encountered from May-September with the greatest concentrations appearing from July to August.
Some scientists think that they have a polygamous mating system, but this is not confirmed. Except for some research, there is not much information about whale shark mating and reproduction and birth has never been observed in the wild.
They reproduce through ovoviviparity and females deliver live pups that reach a length between 40 and 60 centimeters. The number of offspring is not determined, but apparently, they are many because during the 90 s a female captured had about 300 fetuses inside. The pups are not born all at the same time; the female stores the sperm of a male and can develop new offspring after some time.
Despite their size, they are not free from predators in their natural habitat. Orcas, blue sharks, white sharks and blue marlin attack mainly young individuals who are still vulnerable because of their small size. On the other hand, humans considerably contribute to the status this shark has on the IUCN Red List: Vulnerable. Their meat is valued in Asia, and their fins are sold to elaborate soup with supposed medicinal and aphrodisiac properties.
The conservation for whale sharks its a challenge although some countries like Philippines and Australia already regulate them Mexico is still facing challenges regulating whale shark activities as congregations of whale sharks are massive and spread all over the Canal of Yucatan. Their capture is banned in Mexico, and the Mexican Department of Conservation SEMARNAT is responsible for monitoring the tourist visits to the whale sharks reserve north of Isla Mujeres.
Make sure you follow all instructions provided by your guides, They will provide you with all you need to know to enjoy a fun and safe whale shark encounter.