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Whale sharks spotted off of Panhandle coast

Whale shark sightings more common this time of year
Whale shark sightings more common this time of year(WJHG)
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 10:26 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) - The end of summer is creeping closer, and this is typically the time of year larger marine animals come closer to shore.

Whale sharks have been spotted off the coast near Destin, Pensacola and Gulf Shores over the last few days. Whale sharks are often drawn to coastal areas in summer due to a higher abundance of food.

“There’s a lot of small baitfish,” said Dr. John Carlson, a research fish biologist with NOAA. “I mean big big clumps of baitfish especially off some of the bridge spans. Whale sharks will feed off of small fishes and zooplankton, so I would guess they are attracted by the amount of food we’ve been seeing here in the water.”

Whale sharks are the largest species of shark, but pose no threats to humans as they are primarily filter feeders. As a result, people often try to interact with them; something experts typically discourage.

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“One, it’s dangerous because the whale shark could suddenly turn ad it has a very large tail and somebody could get injured,” said Carlson. “Two it’s not really good for the shark to harass it.”

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