March 3, 2016

Conservation

Whale Shark Diaries strives to bring awareness to the conservation and protection of the whale shark – Rhincodon typus.

Conservation is widely defined as the preservation of the earth’s natural resources. The limited knowledge about whale sharks’ biology, ecology, and behaviour has prevented successful management plans that would support conservation of the species.

On March 18th 2016, the whale shark was moved from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Vulnerable category to Endangered.[1] In 2002, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) added whale sharks to Appendix II, as a species that is not currently near extinction, but will become so if trade is not controlled.[2]

Overfishing, habitat destruction, and commercial demand for their meat and oil have significantly declined their global population.

Their wide distribution, highly migratory nature, and dependence on healthy oceans to sustain their huge appetite, makes whale sharks a ‘flagship species’ for the health of the marine environment.[3] Whale sharks are filter-feeders- a trait which allows them to consume zooplankton and small fish, then release plankton-free water back into the ocean. The absence of filter-feeders in the ocean would affect the survival of marine organisms that rely on clean ocean water to survive.[4] Remoras, Yellow Pilot Fish, and Jack Trevally’s are commonly found with whale sharks, as they rely on the species for protection and a beneficial relationship.[5]

Whale Shark Diaries works hard to try and protect whale sharks through collaborative research, education, community activism, and eco-tourism. One initiative is to train people to be responsible guides, creating jobs for local citizens who are interested in the protection of the species. Having tour guides who understand the rules and regulations of whale shark tourism can be extremely beneficial to supporting successful management plans.
Everyone who goes out on a tour or takes part in one of our presentations is a part of the conservation effort for this species. We encourage anyone to join to our Facebook group, follow us on Instagram, or contact us directly for any other questions.

 

References;

1. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/19488/0
2. https://cites.org/eng/gallery/species/fish/whale_shark.html
3. http://www.whalesharkfest.com/pdf/economicimportance.pdf
4. Maddalena, Alessandro De, Harald Bänsch, and Walter Heim. Sharks of the Mediterranean: An Illustrated Study of All Species. Jefferson: McFarland, 2016. Print.
5. Sanchez, M., Pardes, I., Lebouvier, M., & Green, A. (2016). Functional Role of Native and Invasive Filter-Feeders and the Effect of Parasite: Learning from Hypersaline Ecosystems. PLOS one.