Two Whale Shark Sightings in a Week off Ocean City Coast
Two different fishing boats got up close with whale sharks recently, both off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland.
The first was charter captain Steve Moore, of Stalker Sportfishing Charters, who posted this video on Facebook on June 27th. He and his crew spotted the giant shark at 12:15 a.m., on an overnight fishing excursion. The whale shark moves slowly around the boat before passing right underneath it.
A week later, on July 4th, Hooked on OC produced this video of a whale shark sighting 72 miles offshore, during a charter trip on the Moore Bills with Captain Rob Skillman. Two of the charter guests actually jumped into the water to swim with the whale shark.
Skillman tells us he'd estimate the shark was about 30 to 35 feet long.
"His head had to be seven feet wide," he said. Calling the sighting "the coolest thing ever," Skillman recounts, "It felt like, wow, we're seeing something we'll probably never get to see again."
The whale shark is the world's largest shark species, but it feeds on some of the smallest organisms, like zooplankton.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore says catching sight of one in the Mid-Atlantic is very rare, partly because we can only see things when they're at the surface.
"In the video, it appears that it’s nighttime. The lights on the boat could be attracting zooplankton to the surface, and the whale shark is likely interested in feasting on it. You can see it open its mouth a bit in the video when it turns back towards the stern," explains Jennie Janssen, the Aquarium's Assistant Curator of Blue Wonders.
The Aquarium does want people who see the video to know: it's best to stay in the boat if you happen upon a whale shark.
"We encourage people to observe these animals from a distance since they’re a protected species," says Jennifer Dittmar, Curator of Animal Rescue.