EAST AFRICAN WHALE SHARK TRUST TO SET UP OPEN WATER AQUARIUM
The world’s largest whale shark aquarium in Atlanta / Georgia will be dwarved by a new open sea aquarium due to open around March next year, which will be about 100 times bigger, according to sources at the Kenya coast.
The enclosure is said to be some 2 km long and over 600 metres wide and have an average depth of 14 metres, allowing the ‘inhabitants’, two juvenile whale sharks, to thrive in a protected environment.
Whale shark sightings have dramatically decreased in recent years, as the fish is increasingly seen as a major bounty by local fishermen, prompting calls for an increased protected status of this species.
Located at Waa, a fishing village between the famous Diani Beach and the island of Mombasa, the new project is in high gear to finish the various preparations, so that visitors can be allowed to see the two sharks close up and personal, with an excursion packages reportedly selling for around 100 US Dollars.
According to the reports at hand, though not from the project promoters directly, it is understood that a marine rescue and ‘fish hospital’ station is to be added to the project, and that efforts will be made to promote a breeding programme for shark whales in the future, to stabilize and eventually raise population numbers again.
Figures sent in from a survey of whale sharks in Kenyan waters speak of just under 60 sighings over a two week interval some 6 years ago while a similar survey this year took 6 weeks to spot only 12 of the species, attributed to overfishing. ‘They are talking about sharing revenues from visitors to the marine aquarium with local fishing communities in exchange for a moratorium on whale shark hunts. Perhaps it is a way forward but we know the problems we have in Kenya with normal game parks and even though KWS gives support to local communities, poaching is still increasing a lot. They are also promising that the sharks kept in the aquarium will be released after a few months and others brought in, and although I don’t know how this will work on the ground it sounds like a good idea not to keep them captive forever’ said the source.
Efforts are underway to obtain more specific details on the planned breeding programme, the ‘exchange of tenants’ as projected every six months and the long term plans of the facility, and as and when available be sure to read more about it right here, so watch this space. More information is available via www.giantsharks.org