2009: Whale Shark Project Internship

Marine Conservation Society Seychelles, Mahe, Seychelles.


Project Overview

The Whale Shark Monitoring Programme was set up by Dr David Rowat, founder of the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles, and focuses on the study of Whale Shark population. Because they are so rarely seen, and only in very specific places (Western Australia, Seychelles, South India, Djibouti, Galapagos), it is thought that there are not many of these animals.. Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the world. They have been recorded at 18 metres long, and are believed to be capable of growing to 22 metres. They can live to 150 years, and do not reach sexual maturity until they are 25 years old! They are found all around the world between 30 degrees North and 30 degrees South.


  • To monitor and record Whale Shark sightings and in water encounters around the island of Mahe, Seychelles.

  • To gather photographs for formal identification of individual sharks.

  • To monitor and gather data on pilot fish species and numbers.

  • To gather GPS data on Whale Shark whereabouts and direction of travel.

  • To gather data on size of Whale Shark (and from this estimate age).

  • To educate locals and tourists and encourage them to follow the code of conduct at all times.


During the 2009 Season we had:

  • 291 in-water encounters. 

  • 89 sharks identified. 

  • 81 sharks sexed (71M/10F). 

  • 47 new sharks identified this season. 

  • 42 sharks re-sighted from previous seasons.

The fact that we had so many sharks resighted from previous seasons was a very important discovery, as could indicate yearly migration routes for the Whale Sharks.

More info: Encounter code of conduct… This was set up by MCSS, and follows the same code as Australia… Thanks to MCSS it is now enforceable by law in the Seychelles. It states that people in the water with the shark must not: Attempt to touch or ride on a whale shark Restrict the normal movements or behaviour of the whale shark Approach closer than 3 metres from the head or body and 4 metres from the tail Undertake flash photography Use motorised propulsion Exceed a maximum of 8 people in the water at any time.