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Whale Shark Research on the Belize Barrier Reef


Gladden Spit & Silk Cayes Marine Reserve


Gladden Spit
Gladden Spit is a promontory also known as "Point of reef" or the elbow. The site has a short sloping shelf that drops off steeply at about 130 ft / 40 m to over 2,000 m (6,600 ft) depth within 10 km of the reef. Gladden Spit hosts over 25 species of reef fish that aggregate to spawn and a seasonal congregation of whale sharks. Declared on 18 May 2000 at the Silk Cayes, and now co-managed by Fisheries and the NGO Friends of Nature, the marine reserve covers 10,523 hectares and includes a general use zone, a no-take zone around the Silk Cayes, a conch restoration zone and a whale shark and reef fish spawning aggregation conservation zone.

In Belize, whale sharks seasonally visit Gladden Spit, a promontory midway along the Belize Barrier Reef to feed on the spawn of aggregating snappers-the only place this has been documented and is known to occur worldwide. Due to the importance of both snapper spawning aggregations and associated whale sharks, Gladden Spit and the Silk Cayes were declared a marine reserve on 18 May 2000 (Gazette No. 68/2000), and whale shark tourism regulations were drafted to regulate the increasing number of whale shark tours. The reserve is co-managed by Friends of Nature and The Belize Department of Fisheries.

Relatively slow moving animals, whale sharks are curious but docile. At Gladden Spit whale sharks will readily approach boats, snorkelers and divers if they do not feel threatened. They will often remain close to divers and snorkelers and even boats if not chased or harassed. To ensure that whale sharks are not harmed by tourism or boating activities in their main aggregation zone, please follow the guidelines below to good whale shark etiquette as summarized from the Gladden Spit & Silk Cayes marine reserve regulations.


Map of Gladden Spit