Whale sharks live in all seas that are tropical or warm-temperate. Generally whale sharks range no further south than South America and no further north than the United States. They prefer warmer waters near the equator.

Whale sharks also often prefer to stay away from shore lines and filter feed in the open ocean. Groups of them do sometimes follow food sources along certain coasts. Whale sharks have been spotted off the coast of New York, as well as near Central Brazil and throughout the Caribbean. There are whale sharks in the Red Sea and in the Persian Gulf. People have spotted the sharks from Japan to Australia as well as near Hawaii. The waters stretching from California to Chile also contain whale sharks. According to Fish Base, the whale shark is the largest fish in the world. The shark is harmless to people. The sharks sometimes linger near shallow waters including at the mouths of rivers and near estuaries in order to feed on plankton and blooming shrimp. Whale sharks also sometimes feed on small fish, squid and crustaceans. Whale sharks often feed vertically with their head near the surface of the water. Shark whales are valued in China for homeopathic medicines.