Gills, Spots and Eyes

Guest Blog Post by Shark Truth Volunteer Aylin Ulman – Aylin is a passionate ocean advocate and a volunteer with Shark Truth. This summer, she had a chance to swim with one of the biggest fish in the world – whale sharks – and shares her experience with us.


Last year, the winning couple of the Happy Hearts Love Sharks wedding contest, Julianna & Tai, took their grand prize trip in Mexico where they swam with over 100 whale sharks. The swam in the Caribbean Sea just off of the Gulf of Mexico – this is where the world’s largest congregation of whale sharks occurs. Hundreds of whale sharks visit this location to feed on the very bountiful plankton and krill blooms between mid June and early September. Locals say whale sharks have been frequenting this area for over 15 years! It was the fishermen who first discovered them and began swimming with them for fun, but it was only about eight years ago that they first introduced tourists.


First, I have to tell you just how special these animals really are: not only are they are the world’s largest fish and can grow up to 60 feet long, they are gentle giants who barely even have teeth. Whale sharks carouse the shallow seas with their behemoth mouths wide open, and filter thousands of litres of sea water a minute, to trap small crustaceans in their mouths.

So I decided to take a summer trip this year to Mexico. I dipped into the waters of the Caribbean Sea and swam with the whale sharks three times. Surprisingly, they cruise a long at a pretty slow speed while they are feeding so it’s easy to stay next to the animal for up to ten minutes. I had a chance to soak in the beautiful spotted pattern of the whale sharks, watch the immense gills open and close as it was feeding and even look into its eyes of this 30 foot animal. It was one of the most peaceful experiences to be in the water right next to this majestic creature of the sea.

Whale sharks, like many other sharks, are in desperate need of our help. Shark finning is causing their populations to plummet, putting their species and our ocean ecosystem at risk. You can make a difference:

  • Volunteer with Shark Truth or contact us to find a organization near you.
  • Tell your friends and family that half of oceanic sharks are being threatened with extinction because of shark finning. Not only is it a cruel and wasteful practice but it’s doing irreversible damage to our ocean ecosystem. If you know a wedding couple that is going to serve shark fin, send them to this Help Centre where they can find post cards, letters and videos.
  • Sign the petition for more shark fin bans in Canada.
  • Support Shark Truth’s work with a donation. In just two years, over 60 couples have pledged to not serve shark fin at their wedding banquets, stopping 8,600 bowls of shark fin from being consumed – that’s approximately 860 sharks!

Together, we can keep these amazing animals where they belong – in our oceans. And one day, I hope you will have the chance to encounter sharks in their natural habitat where (I will warn) you might fall in love.