Whale sharks: Swimming alongside one of the giants of the oceanic world, from the Press Register at Al.com, reports on the unprecedented numbers of whale sharks being spotted in the northern gulf only a few miles off the coast of Alabama. Ben Raines gives a detailed account of his time in the water with one of the whale sharks in the gulf. The experience lasted about 2 hours. Raines was accompanied by researcher Eric Hoffmayer, who tagged the whale shark during the encounter with a satellite tag to track the shark.
According to the article, Hoffmayer urges people to avoid touching the whale sharks, since it can trigger erratic movement from the whale sharks, which can put anyone around the shark in danger. While whale sharks are plankton feeders, and considered “gentle giants,” the sheer size of them can result in injuries even by accidental contact. Hoffmayer encourages divers to keep a safe distance of 5 feet (1.5 meters) when swimming with the sharks. Raines also notes that it’s probably a good idea to avoid swimming directly above whale sharks, as well, to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the event of a whale shark surfacing.