International Whale Shark Day 2016 - They Need Our Help!

International Whale Shark Day 2016 - They Need Our Help!

Posted by Michael Starbuck on 30th Aug 2016

Despite its confusing name and appearance, the whale shark is not a whale – it’s a shark. It’s huge, weighing about 12 tons, so is the largest shark or fish species in the world, but it has tiny teeth. This means it poses no threat to humans, making it a favourite among marine animal tourists, particularly those who want to swim with sharks.

Whale sharks spend most of their time in shallow waters, generally move quite slowly. In fact it does most things slowly, including breeding! These giant fish reside in the world's tropical waters.

Whale Shark

The whale shark is one of the most at-risk marine animals in the world. There are no reliable estimates of the population but it is thought to be declining for a number of reasons, including those outlined below.

International Whale Shark Day aims to raise awareness of the risks faced by the whale shark, and help organisations and individuals take action to save it. The day occurs on 30 August each year.

Threats The Whale Shark Faces

One of the major threats that whale sharks face is from the fishing industry. They are particularly vulnerable because of the way they live - swimming slowly in shallow waters. This means they often collide with fishing boats or end up getting caught in fishing boat nets. The rate of bycatch deaths of whale sharks is exacerbated by unsustainable fishing practices.

Another risk factor to the survival of the whale shark is the fact they have been hunted for decades. In fact the first documented deliberate killing of a whale shark took place in 1828. Some countries have recognised the vulnerability of the whale shark in conservation terms, and have banned whale shark hunting. This only applies to waters where they have jurisdiction, though. As a result whale shark hunting still takes place, particularly in countries like China and Taiwan. The hunting industry is fuelled by demand for whale shark parts such as meat, oil and fins. Products like this have significant markets in countries across Southeast Asia.

In addition, tourism is also disruptive to world populations. When tourists arrive in the whale shark’s natural habitat in large numbers they bring boats, and those boats often accidentally crash into the sharks, injuring them.

Whale Shark Swimming

What Needs Done

Further action needs taken by governments to stop whale shark hunting. The rest of the world, including the conservation community, need to increase the pressure on those governments to end this horrible practice.

Action also needs taken against those who engage in unsustainable fishing practices, while the whale shark tourism industry needs to be improved. It has to be conducted in a way that doesn’t place additional risks on the species.

International Whale Shark Day raises awareness of these issues and offers a voice for those who want to get involved conserving and protecting the whale sharks, so help us with these efforts!


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