A whale shark fitted with a satellite tag at Number 4 Ribbon Reef about 61km off Cooktown. Photo: Dan McCarthy
A whale shark fitted with a satellite tag at Number 4 Ribbon Reef about 61km off Cooktown. Photo: Dan McCarthy

Reef first as scientists tag, track whale shark

A WHALE shark has been fitted with a satellite tag in what is believed to be a first for the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns based charter boat operator Daniel McCarthy successfully fitted a tracking device to a whale shark, as part of a scientific monitoring program, about 61km off Cooktown last week.

The research program is being run in conjunction with James Cook University scientists Dr Michelle Heupel and Dr Adam Barnett.

A whale shark fitted with a satellite tag at Number 4 Ribbon Reef about 61km off Cooktow. Photo: Dan McCarthy
A whale shark fitted with a satellite tag at Number 4 Ribbon Reef about 61km off Cooktow. Photo: Dan McCarthy

Whale sharks are commonly spotted throughout the marine park, but very little is known about their migratory patterns.

Mr McCarthy hoped the temporary satellite, which will naturally detach itself from the whale shark in a few days, would provide invaluable information about the animal.

"I've been fortunate enough to see lots of them and swam with plenty … out in the Coral Sea," he said.

"I have long admired these amazing creatures and had a desire to learn a lot more about them.

"You need to get the chance to swim with literally the biggest fish in the ocean, often over a hundred miles out to sea in thousands of metres of water to really appreciate the significance of these animals."



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