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Australia Leads Fight To Save Gentle Marine Giant


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Australia leads fight to save gentle marine giant

from NASA combined with photographs from 1000 amateur scientists has allowed researchers to track the largest and most elusive fish in the sea.

A Perth-based conservation group has recruited tourists and nature lovers from around the globe to photograph their sightings of whale sharks.

Known as the gentle giants of the sea, the rare and beautiful beasts grow up to 18m and are under threat of extinction.

But using ground-breaking technology first employed by NASA to identify star constellations, around 1000 whale sharks have now been identified - prompting some hope that their numbers are rising.

The technology allows the distinguishing patterns on the animals to be analysed and compared to others in the photograph bank. Like a fingerprint, the unique spotted designs differ on each shark.

Despite a growing number of international laws protecting the whale shark, the leader of the ECOCEAN project, Brad Norman, said there was still an illegal market for the fin and flesh of the whale shark in East Asia.

"This year Taiwan announced they would ban fishing of the whale shark, so we are having some success," he said.

Mr Norman said the largest numbers of whale sharks were found of the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

The latest photographic sighting was made by marine biologist Simon Pearce in waters off the coast of Mozambique.

Even at a massive 6.5m long, Mr Norman said the giant was most likely a juvenile.

"Whale sharks were only discovered in 1828. We don't know much about them," he said.

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