Whale Time

Southasia - - BRIEFINGS -

As­mall group of whale sharks in the wa­ters of a sin­gle atoll in the Mal­dives ac­counts for nearly 3 per­cent of global tourism de­voted to sharks. Last year the Marine Pro­tected Area (Sampa) in the South Ari atoll at­tracted be­tween 77,000 and 78,000 tourists on whale shark ex­cur­sions, bring­ing in a di­rect in­come of £5.6 mil­lion to the op­er­a­tors. At any one time, up to 29 whale sharks are thought to pop­u­late the Sampa area, the largest pro­tected area in the Mal­dives.

The whale shark is the world's big­gest fish, reach­ing lengths of 40ft or more. How­ever, it is a gen­tle gi­ant that preys on noth­ing larger than shrim­p­like plank­ton.

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