The commentary presented herein highlights the original research and peer-reviewed publications submitted for the award of PhD by Publication. The work focuses on the world’s largest fish, the whale shark Rhincodon typus, mainly in the Philippines where the work was carried out, but also its significance on a regional and global scale. The species was recently upgraded to Endangered given population declines of >50%, particularly in the Indo-West Pacific where targeted fisheries operated freely until recently – including the Philippines – and where illegal take likely still occurs. The onset of the work is centred at the start of an unregulated tourism site in central Philippines, in Oslob, where whale sharks are fed daily, year-round – a globally unique setup at the time. Given the highly mobile nature of the whale shark, the work therein led to understanding linkages in the general area, the Bohol Sea, west to the Sulu Sea and north to the first whale shark tourism site in Asia, at Donsol in southern Luzon. This commentary highlights the population demographics of whale sharks in the Philippines across four major aggregations, with documented movements across the country and beyond with connectivity to Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia as confirmed through photographic identification and satellite telemetry. Finally, this research highlights various aspects of where management intervention is necessary, and where future work can help fill in key knowledge gaps in the biology and ecology of the species – essential for the development of robust conservation strategies for the recovery of the species. The overall scientific contribution of my work is significant, having led and co-authored 23 published papers on whale sharks to date and presented them at various international conferences over the past 8 years, particularly for data-poor regions, with an Endangered species of international interest.
|Date of Award||May 2021|
|Supervisor||Sarah Marley (Supervisor)|