Here is some helpful info regarding whale shark sightings on Utila. This information is drawn from several sources, aboututila website, fisheries and snapper studies, and The Whale Shark Institute; as well as, local knowledge from islanders that have fished these waters their entire lives. Lastly, we provided the weeks when these sightings may be more likely based on the spawning of snapper and the lunar phases in the months they spawn.
Utila Whale Shark Sightings:
Although more frequent in the months March-April and August-September, the Whale Shark is regularly sighted around the Island of Utila and unlike dolphins or other fish which tend to school or travel in pods, are usually solitary. That said, it is not uncommon for 5 or more singular Whale Sharks to be sighted in a single day along the northern shores of Utila. Our Utila scuba diving team is experienced in these waters and will give you the best opportunity to see these amazing species.
These periods coincide with the onset and duration of snapper spawning and the absence of spawning, respectively. Between April and June whale sharks dived significantly deeper in the new moon–first quarter periods once spawning was no longer occurring and spent longer at depth. This means that during full moon and last quarter moon there are more sightings during spawning seasons.
Outside the peak snapper spawning season, there was no significant difference in maximum depths reached for whale sharks. The magnitude of differences in the means was very small indicating that the shark's diving behavior is linked to timing of snapper spawning, but is probably not directly influenced by the lunar phase outside of the spawning season.
Fortunately, Utila is home to a great variety of snapper which is one reason why whale shark tend to remain in these waters year round and we have sightings throughout. The other significant reason is the great depths of the Cayman trench off the Northside coupled with the shallows where snapper spawn. Below are a few types of the snappers found here and their spawning seasons. Also 2011 lunar calendar Mar-June where the moon is full or in the last quarter and sightings may be higher as that is when the snappers spawn. Species of Snapper around Utila (there may be more but these are most prevalent)
• Red Snapper Spawn- Apr to Sept
• Yellow tail Snapper- April – Sept
• Vermillion Snapper Spawn- April – Sept
• Dog Teeth Snapper- Apr- Sept
• Mutton Snapper- Mar-June
• School Master Snapper spawn –July - Aug
• Mangrove Snapper Spawn- June- Aug
• Cubera Snapper- Jul-Aug
Whale Shark & Oceanic Research Center
This center is committed to the preservation of whale sharks, coral reef and the surrounding waters of Utila. A staff of professional scientists, dive instructors and volunteers work to promote research, conservation and education on one of Central America’s natural wonders. At Utopia Village, the whale shark & dolphin excursion includes a theory session by WORSC scientists that includes biology, behavior, research and conservation of the elusive whale shark. After the session, a boat excursion is provided on the Miss U to search for these gentle giants and perhaps have the rare chance to snorkel with them in their natural environment. All whale sharks spotted have distinguishing markings and spots. The submission of dates, photos and descriptions are welcomed by the WORSC research team to
help track existing tagged sharks and identify new ones in the area.