Costa Rica Expedition: Whale Sharks

Research Location: Costa Rica

Location Mission

Collect tissue sample of a whale shark to help identify migration patterns of the species. Costa Rica, scuba diving with whale sharks for a citizen scientist research expedition with Fins Attached, CREMA and students of the University of Costa Rica.

The Scientific Process

A small sample is taken, where scuba diver scientists use a coring tool at the end of the pole spear.  Photographers and videographers photograph the shark to help identify the dot patterns, which are unique to each individual shark.  The photographs and video are then added to a worldwide database, which assists scientists and researches with identifying migration patterns, and in turn, protection for the species.

Whale Shark Identification

Each individual whale shark can be identified by the unique pattern on its body. No two whale sharks are alike!  Similar to our own fingerprints, the dot patterns are specific to the individual.

Whale Sharks are Endangered

The whale shark (Rhincodon Typus) is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The sharks are hunted legally and illegally throughout the world, mostly for their fins. In Costa Rica, the whale shark is often poached by foreign countries to make Shark Fin soup as well as fish oil and lipstick additives. 

How can you help?  Act locally and support anti-finning and shark fin trade with your local government. Avoid eating products that may contain fish products such as shark fin soup, illegally sourced fish oil, joint supplements containing natural cartilage products, and know where your food is sourced from.  

You may also volunteer for or support your local 5013c, who go to bat for whale sharks, rays, turtles, tuna and other endangered marine animals. Through legislation and other legal protections, the ability to allow these animals to succeed must be handled through over-fishing protections and import policies.