The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, as it is usually about 12 meters long, approximately, and weighs more than 20 tons. Unlike most sharks, it is not a great predator, but rather a peaceful-tempered giant with tiny teeth of just a couple of millimeters that feeds by filtering huge amounts of plankton, algae, crustaceans, and small fish.
Despite efforts to preserve the species, whale shark populations have declined dramatically in recent years globally.
Therefore, Are whale sharks in danger of extinction? In this Green Ecologist article we will talk about its conservation status, how many whale sharks there are in the world and, if so, we will explain why the whale shark is in danger of extinction.
The whale sharkRhincodon typus) is the largest of all chondrichthyans, the class of cartilaginous fish to which sharks belong. They are creatures ovoviviparous and migratory, which are filter-fed and can live for more than 100 years.
One of the greatest curiosities of the whale shark is that, like human beings we have fingerprints, they have unique and unrepeatable dorsal body patterns that allow them to differentiate from each other.
Whale sharks have very few natural predators, the main ones being killer whales, other large sharks such as the white or tiger shark and, lastly, humans. If you want to know more about the Types of sharks: how many there are and species, read this article that we recommend.
They are a kind in danger of extinction. Its population has decreased by 50% in the last 75 years and is estimated to be between 7,000 and 12,000 copies. Below we will look at some of the causes why the whale shark is threatened and we will mention other measures that can be implemented to help conserve the species.
The main threat to the whale shark is overfishing or overfishing, as for other species. Although whale sharks do not pose any risk to humans and are a protected species in many of the countries and regions where they live, they are indiscriminately killed for sell their bodies for 3 thousand or 4 thousand US dollars.
In many parts of the world its meat is consumed, which is considered a culinary delicacy. Its fat is also used for manufacture of cosmetics, medicines and vitamin supplementsIn some places it is even believed that certain parts of the whale shark have aphrodisiac, healing and magical properties.
They are not aggressive animals, they move at a speed that does not usually exceed 5 kilometers per hour and they do not fear or avoid people, so it has been very easy for the large Chinese, Taiwanese and Philippine fisheries to capture them.
You can take a look at this post by Green Ecologist to learn more about Overfishing: what it is, causes, consequences and solutions.
Trawling is the type of fishing more harmful to the environment that exists. It affects multiple species (some of them are not even commercial) and destroys the seabed, the ecosystem and the ecological balance of the places where it grows.
Whale sharks are sometimes caught and accidentally killed by getting stuck in fishing nets used in trawling. Many of the times the whale shark survives capture, it is returned to the sea with injuries, lacerations and even mutilations.
In this article you can also find information about What is trawling so you can learn more about it.
It is believed that more than 20,000 whales run over by fishing boats, cargo ships and cruise ships. In most cases the crew is unaware of the collision and the animal dies and sinks without a trace. Here you can find out more about Why the blue whale is in danger of extinction and Beluga whales in danger of extinction.
Collisions between boats and whale sharks are also very common. Can cause injuries, lacerations, mutilations and even death of affected specimens.
Whale sharks are migratory fish that inhabit the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. They prefer the warm waters of the tropics, but can be found in colder waters, such as those off the coast of New York or South Africa.
Although whale sharks are usually inland (at depths between 200 and more than 1,500 meters), it is quite common to see them off the coast, swimming in coral reefs or bays. Whale sharks have been sighted off the coasts of more than 90 different countries, with the largest populations in the Philippines, Taiwan, the Galapagos Islands, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, the Maldives Islands, Mozambique, India and China.
The human being is the main responsible for the pollution of the oceans. Here are some human activities that damage the habitat of whale sharks:
Climate change is causing the temperature and acidity of ocean water to increase. The change affects the feeding and development process of many marine species, including whale sharks.
Plankton, nekton, some algae, and many of the small fish, arthropods, and mollusks that whale sharks feed on are affected by climate change. If their populations decline, the food for whale sharks may become scarce.
If we want to save the whale shark we have to take measures that allow its population to increase quickly and efficiently. The human being is the cause of the great majority of the factors that threaten the whale shark, so all efforts to recover the species must be advocated decrease environmental impact that we generate people.
Some steps we can take to prevent whale sharks from becoming extinct in the near future include:
We also recommend that you take a look at this video from Ecologist Verde on the importance of protecting animals in danger of extinction.
If you want to read more articles similar to Is the whale shark in danger of extinction?We recommend that you enter our category of Endangered Animals.Bibliography