Multinstitutional Collaboration leads to successful tagging of juvenile whale sharks in Peru

Author: MigraMar
Date: 2024-03-27

Tracking whale sharks in mainland Peru will lead to insight on juvenile whale shark movements in the region 


Whale Shark Peru-EcOceánica, The Galapagos Whale Shark Project, and MigraMar are thrilled to announce a new collaboration that has led to the successful tagging of six juvenile whale sharks. This unprecedented expedition marks a significant milestone in our collective efforts to better understand and conserve the whale shark.

 EcOceánica started Whale Shark Peru as a project to study the whale sharks sighted off the coast of Peru in 2014. The project has since been working year-round to record whale shark sightings, understand their population indices via photoIDs and have developed a network with the local fishermen and tourism companies which report any encounters back to Alejandra Mendoza, the project leader.

 Keeping track of where the whale sharks go after leaving the Peruvian coast and where they spend the rest of the year is still unknown. Although photoID allows the team to identify return rates, residency, local movements, and predict mortality, it cannot shed light on the movements and habitat use of the whale sharks once they leave the area.

Image 1. Juvenile whale shark photoID in murky waters off the coast of Peru. ©Alejandra Mendoza 

For that reason, the project partnered up with the scientists from MigraMar and The Galapagos Whale Shark project to further expand the methodologies used by the team to study the species. Satellite tracking allows scientists to track whale sharks actively as they move through the world’s oceans. 

 During our joint expedition, which took place in the waters of Northern Peru, our team of experts worked closely with the local fishermen, which support Whale Shark Peru, to locate and tag whale sharks. During 5 days of search along the coastline of Cancans de Punta Sal we found 11 juvenile whale sharks ranging from 2-6 meters and managed to successfully tag six sharks using SPOT-6 satellite tags (Wildlife Computers).


“We are extremely excited to learn more about the connectivity with other localities in Peru, and potentially with Ecuador!” said Alejandra Mendoza, project leader of Whale Shark Peru. 

The tagging of these six juvenile whale sharks represents a significant step forward in our understanding of their movements, behaviours, and migratory patterns. By tracking their movements over time, we hope to gain insights into their habitat use and identify critical areas for conservation.

 “We know that the large females that we see in Galapagos from July onwards end up off the shelf-break here in northern Peru,” explained Alex Hearn, Nat Geo Explorer from MigraMar, “but what about the juvenile sharks that are more coastal? Do they remain here year-round? Do they move north into Ecuadorian waters?””


“We have been studying whale sharks in the Galapagos for over a decade, but are missing data of what their movements and demography are like from the coast of mainland Peru and Ecuador,” said Sofía Green, scientist for the Galapagos Whale Shark Project. “By developing this new partnership with Whale Shark Peru, we are able to expand our research efforts, gather valuable data on juvenile whale sharks, and work towards a more sustainable future for this endangered species and the marine ecosystems they inhabit.”

This collaboration is a step to building a coalition of whale shark researchers across the Eastern Tropical Pacific that will shed light on whale shark habitat use in the region and contribute to whale shark protection.

Image 2. Team photo (from left to right: Sofía Green, Alejandra Mendoza, Alex Hearn) ©EcOceánica

 The success of this expedition would not have been possible without the invaluable support from National Geographic Foundation (Explorer Grant # NGS-96322R-22), and Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF). 

 We would also like to thank our local partners Guillermo Villcas, Juan, Cesar and Ever Apolo for their unwavering assistance.


For more information about our collaborative efforts and ongoing research projects, please visit:


For more information contact: 

Sofía Green (, researcher, Galapagos Whale Shark Project

Alex Hearn (, researcher, MigraMar 

Alejandra Mendoza (, researcher, EcOceánica


Written by: Sofía Green, Galapagos Whale Shark Project

Share This Post