From a spotter airplane buzzing off the coast of Baja California, it's hard to miss the dark shape of a giant whale shark moving through the emerald green waters below.
Whale sharks are the world's largest living fish species, growing up to 40 feet (12 meters) long.
They move near the surface, feeding on the plankton and krill that mass in these waters during the winter months.
The Bay of La Paz, though busy with fishing boats and divers, is a safe zone for these rare and threatened animals.
But around the world, shark populations have declined dramatically in recent years, mainly due to overfishing.
Most at risk are migratory sharks, including whale sharks, which are known to travel more than 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean, from Mexico to the Tonga Islands, according to Zeb Hogan, a fisheries biologist with the University of Reno in Nevada.
"Every time a migratory shark moves from one spot to another, there's a greater chance that it might be targeted by fishermen or subject to habitat destruction," Hogan said.
Hawaii's Biggest SharkIt seems a couple of researchers from the University of Hawaii made a huge discovery while doing a documentary at a depth of 1000m (3280ft) on the northeast coast of Molokai. What they saw there (and we're grateful they taped it) was a 6-gill shark 18 ft in length. Now that's one guy you definitely don't want to meet.
Australia's Biggest SharksA diver swims with a whale shark off Ningaloo Reef, Australia. Megafish expert Zeb Hogan says whale sharks, the world's largest fish species, are coming under pressure from overfishing and habitat degradation and are in need of greater protection.
Biggest Shark in the World in an AquariumThe world's largest aquarium opened this week in Atlanta, Georgia, with a roll call of 500 different species in more than eight million gallons of marine and fresh water.
One of the highlights for visitors is the chance to see two whale sharks, the world's largest fish, housed in a six-million-gallon saltwater tank. Concerns have been raised over whether such creatures should be kept in captivity.
Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, the world's largest home-improvement retailer, who funded the £122 million project, claims that the habitat has been made as comfortable as possible for the fish.
"We wanted the biggest fish in the biggest tank and the biggest window we could create for people to watch it all through. But we literally built the aquarium around this habitat," he said. "It is shaped like an hour-glass, so that these big animals could have the ability to swim back and forth and turn, which they need to do to stay healthy."
Tim Ecott, the author of a best-selling book on scuba-diving, Neutral Buoyancy, said that although he was against keeping such fish - which can reach up to 50ft in length - in captivity, they escaped a worse fate.
"It is unethical to capture a whale shark and house it in artificial conditions, but Bernie Marcus assures me that these fish were rescued from the Taiwanese restaurant trade and, arguably, they now serve as an educational tool to inspire and raise awareness of marine life among future generations."
The aquarium covers 500,000 square feet on a nine-and-a-half acre site next to the Centennial Olympic Park and World of Coca-Cola. There are themed galleries, a cinema with special effects and a rehabilitation centre for injured marine animals.
Visitors can also touch horseshoe crabs, sea stars and hermit crabs or see five beluga whales up close, two of which were rescued from a Mexican amusement park.
But a spokesman for the Whales And Dolphin Conservation Society said it was particularly concerned that the aquarium housed beluga whales in its tanks.
"We are against all whales and dolphins being kept in captivity and have evidence to show that belugas suffer greater stress and higher mortality rates when they are kept in such tanks."
10 Biggest Sharks in the WorldWhale Shark
The Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus is the most humungous shark in the entire world. Luckily, they are not predators and are just another slow moving filter feeder similar to the Basking Shark. The Whale Shark can grow as long as 41 feet and weigh as much as 15 tons! The whale shark can be found in tropical and warm water oceans; they have been known to live as long as 70 years. This species is said to have originated as long as 60 million years ago!
The basking shark, Cetorhinus maximus is an absolute beast of a shark being the second largest fish on the planet. The Basking Shark can grow as long as 40 feet and has been reported at weighing as much as 19 tons! Luckily these mammoth sharks are non predators as they are filter feeders.
Great White Shark
The great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, has got to be one of the worlds most well known vicious sharks. These sharks have been known to grow as long as 26.2 feet and weigh as much as 5000 lbs! The Great White shark is the last surviving member of its species genus, Carcharodon. Unfortunately for us as humans Great White sharks are located in coastal waters across all major oceans, so if you are on vacation, make sure you find out if they habitat the beaches where you plan on swimming!
The Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier is the fourth largest shark in the world with a maximum length up to 24.3 feet! These humungous sharks have been known to weigh up to 2000 lbs and are known for being vicious. Not only do they eat many forms of sea life, they are also well known for attacking human swimmers. The Tiger sharks are mostly known to live tropical waters of the world but are especially common surrounding islands in the central Pacific ocean.
Pacific Sleeper Shark
The Pacific sleeper shark, Somniosus pacificus, is yet another massive shark known to grow up to 23 feet in length and weigh as much as 800 lbs. The one interesting thing about the Pacific Sleeper is that they are one of the few sharks found in polar waters year round. What also makes them interesting is they mostly live in deep waters and can be found as deep at 6500 feet below the oceans surface.
The Greenland Shark, technically known as Somniosus microcephalus is a very large shark that can be found in the North Atlantic Ocean, predominantly near Greenland and Iceland. These sharks are known to grow up to 21 feet long and live as long as 200 years. They are known to be the longest living vertebrate (longest living creature with a spine). While Greenland sharks tend to be a deep water shark living at depths up to 6600 feet, they have been caught on film in shallow water in depths as low as 24 feet.
Great Hammerhead Shark
The Great Hammerhead, Sphyma mokarran is the biggest of all hammerhead sharks growing up to lengths of 20 feet. Great Hammerheads can be found around the world like most sharks in warm tropical waters. While Great hammerheads are a danger to humans, they tend to be a shyer shark, generally avoiding humans. The heaviest Great Hammerhead caught to date was a 1280 lb female caught in Boca Grande in Florida, US.
The Thresher shark, similar to its smaller brother the 'Bigeye Thresher Shark', is another large breed of shark that can grow as long as 18 feet. THe Thresher shark is the 8th biggest shark known to man and is found in tropical oceans around the world. Thresher sharks are a slender shark but don't let that fool you, these bad boys can weigh over 1100 lbs!
Bluntnose Sixgill Shark
The Bluntnose sixgill shark, Hexanchus griseus, is the ninth biggest shark in the world and is often referred to as a cow shark. The Bluntnose sixgill shark is a member of the Hexanchidae family; most of their relatives are extinct. These sharks skin color's can range from tan/brown to nearly black in color. These sharks are known to grow as big as 15.8 feet and some larger versions have even been spotted.
Bigeye Thresher Shark
The Bigeye Thresher shark, Alopias superciliosus, is the 10th biggest shark in the world. The Bigeye Thresher can be found in tropical oceans around the world and can be found at depths up to 1650 feet deep. Bigeye Thresher sharks are of a purplish grey color and can reach lengths up to 15.1 feet long and can weigh up to 795 lbs.
So there you have it a countdown on the biggest sharks in the world.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the biggest and largest Shark in the world. When we tried to find out which is the biggest Shark in the world we found this information. The information above on the biggest Shark in the world is gathered from various world record resources. So, the biggest or largest world record holder may change.