Preliminary Results on Whale Shark (Smith, 1828) Distribution in the Cuban Archipelago
AuthorsFigueredo Martín, T., Y. Ventura Díaz, Y. Rodríguez Cueto, D. Cobián Rojas, J. Martínez Fernández, S. Chapman Stable, J. Tamayo Fonseca, Y.A. Paz Rodríguez, A. Medina Valmaseda, R. Fajardo Veloso, Y. Nuñez Acosta, A. Pupo Sánchez, R.T. Graham, and F. Pina Amargós Download PDF Open PDF in Browser
As the worlds largest fish, the iconic whale shark (Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828) has been the increasing focus of interest by scientists and tourism operators over the past decade. Despite a listing by the IUCN as Vulnerable to extinction, and whale shark populations and behavior increasingly understood throughout the world, there is still relatively little known about their distribution and seasonal occurrence in Cuba. The aim of this study was to use traditional ecological knowledge to assess whale shark distribution and status throughout Cuba. To accomplish this objective structured inter-views were applied. The sample was set as at least five interviews per fishing ports and diving centers throughout Cuba. Years of experience were the selection criterion for fishermen and dive masters interviewed. Cartographic schemes of each particular region were used as a support material, just to assist the localization of the sites. ArGis 9.3 software was used for the cartographic representations. Response rate from interviews was 88%. Using the interviews, occurrence and seasonality of whale sharks was collected from nine of Cubas 15 Provinces. The 114 interviews (n = 83 fishermen, n = 31 dive masters) conducted in 2009 and 2010 suggest that whale shark occur more frequently in the west (Pinar del Río province), southwest (Isla de la Juventud and surroundings) and south-central Cuba (Jardines de la Reina archipelago). Most whale shark records are of 1 3 medium-sized individuals, (> 5 m TL). Whale sharks are commonly observed feeding horizontal-ly on plankton and vertically on schools of pelagic clupeids. Whale sharks are associated with small tuna species and sharks, especially silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis). Whale sharks are often found by fishers and divers using seabirds flocking above surface-feeding small tuna fish. There is no tourism activity focused on Whale shark in Cuba. There were sporadic catches of Whale shark in Cuban waters around 20 years ago. Interviewees state that abundance and size of Whale shark are similar now when compared with decades ago.