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Evidence of continued hunting of whale sharks Rhincodon typus in the Maldives


Superficial dermal wounds in whale sharks are reported to heal rapidly as with many other elasmobranchs. Here observations of two wounded whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in Maldivian waters suggest that free ranging sharks are able to recover and rapidly heal from the effects of deeper wounding on internal organs or amputations. One specimen observed impaled by a wooden harpoon shaft, was subsequently re-encountered nearly a year later. The other suffered a near severed first dorsal fin but showed signs of rapid healing. These observations illustrate that despite national bans in whale sharks fishing, the practise persists in the Maldives. Further research to increase understanding of the demography of aggregations of this species is necessary before the impact of illegal exploitation on regional population trends can be determined. National governments are encouraged to enhance marine conservation outreach and education programmes throughout their territories.

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We thank Conrad Rangali, Swallow Tree Gardens, the Gilchrist Educational Trust, the Royal Geographical Society, the Earth and Space Foundation and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Trust for their generous support. The assistance of the Ministry of Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources is gratefully acknowledged. The help of the dhoni captains and crew was essential as was the support provided by the communities and resorts at the study site. The success of the research should be attributed to the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme, and former team members James Hancock, Jonathan Leigh, Rhodri Lloyd-Williams, Adam Rees, and Mark Tarrant. We thank the anonymous reviewer and D. L. G. Noakes for their comments and suggestions for improving the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Morgan J. Riley.

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Riley, M.J., Harman, A. & Rees, R.G. Evidence of continued hunting of whale sharks Rhincodon typus in the Maldives. Environ Biol Fish 86, 371 (2009).

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  • Whale shark
  • Rhincodon typus
  • Maldives
  • Wound
  • Fishing