Whale shark numbers increase by 80% in Mafia Island Tanzania | WWF

Whale shark numbers increase by 80% in Mafia Island Tanzania

Posted on 30 August 2018    
A diver alongside the whale shark
© WWF Global
Mafia, the island off Tanzania coast, is blessed to be home to hundreds of whale sharks. They are the biggest recorded fish in the ocean globally. A whale shark can measure up to 18 meters long and weigh more than 20 tons. Whale sharks in the South Western Indian Ocean are known to stay longer in Mafia Island waters and there is proof that the population is resident in the area, meaning they do not migrate outside Mafia. Population has increased from approximately 100 individuals in 2012 to 180 individuals as of December 2017.
Whale sharks are social and calm if not disturbed or scared. They are not predators. They pose a tourism potential as they can swim alongside people. Whale shark sighting is a major tourism attraction in Mafia Island and the peak sighting season is October-March, but also sightings can be observed throughout the year. Research shows up to 8 sightings can be recorded in a day by either viewing or swimming. Whale sharks tourism has emerged to be one of the key sources of income to the community and local authority in Mafia District Whale sharks are protected and are listed in the IUCN red list. Their vulnerability is mainly due to slow growth where they become mature at the age of 30 years, and therefore if not well managed they may become extinct.
WWF in collaboration with the Government Authorities recognize the importance of effective management of this species and joint measures are being promoted to safeguard the whale sharks of Tanzania. Since early 2012 WWF facilitated awareness campaigns to the stakeholders about the importance of coordinating management of whale sharks in Mafia. This included fishers, boat riders, tour operators, tour guides, district authorities, hoteliers and other investors on the island. This resulted into development of whale shark management strategy and the code of conduct for whale sharks.
Further actions are needed to advance management and monitoring of whale sharks including implementation of the management strategy. 
By the Marine Team - TCO
A diver alongside the whale shark
© WWF Global Enlarge

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions
Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions