SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A whale shark was spotted by shrimpers off the coast of South Padre Island.
A video posted on social media shows a large whale shark near the side of a boat.
Pedro Morales, the captain of the shrimp boat who filmed the shark, said he has never seen a whale shark in the area.
“I have been working since 2005 and have never seen one in front of South Padre Island until now,” said Morales. “It was beautiful.”
Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are not only the largest sharks, but also the largest of any fish on Earth.
Tony Reisinger, a Cameron County Marine Extension Agent with Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, called the sighting unique.
“They can get as big as a school bus, they’re huge,” said Reisinger.
As for why the whale shark would be in the Gulf of Mexico, Reisinger said the answer is likely food.
“Usually the Gulf of Mexico has a lot of food in it,” he said. “And whale sharks have an unusual method of feeding. What they do is lay vertical in the water and little fish and other animals will come around them. Then they submerge, creating a whirlpool and whatever is swimming around them goes into their mouth.”
Reisinger says that whale sharks are calm animals.
“They’re docile and you can swim around them, but you don’t want to hurt them,” he said.