At Ocean Scuba Dive, we love to celebrate days of the year, so join us in raising a glass of plankton to our gentle giant friends and celebrate International Whale Shark Day! As a vulnerable species, it is important for us to protect them and their ocean homes. There is of course also an International whale day and International shark day just to ensure awareness for all the amazing sea creatures.
So whether you decide to learn some facts or adopt a whale shark today, take the time to raise awareness this Day and support this amazing creature! To aid you in expanding your knowledge, we have put together some information along with some awesome facts and their conservational status.
So, why not show a little solidarity on this Day and celebrate our finned friends? Go coastal and try and glimpse one or perhaps bake a whale shark cake. Whatever you do, just don’t watch Jaws!
International Whale Shark Day
Image Source: visitningaloo.com.au
When Is It?
It is celebrated every 30th of August. This date has been celebrated since 2012 and is used to raise awareness about these gentle giants.
What Is It All About?
The day is all about celebrating the gentle giants. Growing up to 14 meters in length and weighing up to a massive 12 tons! The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of how whale shark hunting has caused its vulnerability, for its highly prized fins and whale shark meat.
Is It A Whale or A Shark?
Is it a fish or a mammal? Hmmm… This is the ultimate question! With a face like a whale and a body like a shark, these seemingly frightening creatures are actually gentle giants. That’s right, it is a slow-moving, filter-feeding carpet shark. They are in no way related to whales. Although they are sharks, they are very docile and pose no real threats to humans. The gigantic whale shark is the largest in the world and can be found in tropical oceans in areas like the Maldives, the Philippines, and Mexico. They feed mainly on plankton and despite the size, whale shark teeth are only 6 millimeters long!
Is it True that Each has a Unique Pattern?
Yes, it is. An interesting fact is that whale shark skin is completely unique, just like a human fingerprint. The patterns on its back allow researchers to run visual analytics to correctly identify and track individuals. How amazing is that?
Are They Endangered?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List regards the species as one of the most vulnerable marine animals in the world and is currently listed as endangered on their Red List.
Although Indonesia, through its Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, has enacted a law for conservation, it continues to be hunted for its highly prized fins and whale shark meat. It is listed on our most endangered sharks in the world list and efforts must be made to help raise awareness for these giant sea critters.
Can They Eat a Human?
Although they are really, really big. Their mouths can get up to five feet long, and they can suck in around 600 cubic meters of water every single hour. So swimming next to one might make you remember Pinocchio’s trip into the belly! And suddenly you might worry that that could actually happen to you. Could one swallow you by accident?
The answer is no, they could not swallow a human on purpose or by accident, as Dr. Craig McClain explains;
I know that the esophagus of measures only inches across. The massive beast could not choke me down even if it preferred man meat to plankton.
Can you Swim with Them?
Yes, you can. Swimming with these gentle giants is a life-changing experience, however, it must be done responsibly. The tourism industry in Mexico alone has increased significantly in the past several years, from just a few hundred tourists annually to over 12,000 per year.
This level of tourism puts great amounts of stress on the population, so we urge you to take a look at this great article written by WWF Travel Program on responsible whale shark tourism before diving or swimming with them.
What Threats Do They Face?
They are very vulnerable to unsustainable fishing. Just like most of their species, they breed very slowly. This means that it takes a lot longer for their population to rebound after depletion. This makes them dangerously vulnerable to overfishing and also destructive fishing practices.
They move at a very slow pace. They swim at speeds of only 5 kilometers per hour but can dive up to 1,000 meters. And prefer to swim in shallow waters of up to around 50 meters deep, this habit, unfortunately, makes them exceptionally vulnerable to ship collisions and fishing nets.
Most deaths are attributed to the global shark fin trade. The demand for fins is primarily driven by the market for shark fin soup. This is a luxury item that is popular in some Asian cuisines. They are not equal in value but are divided into a primary and secondary fin set with higher prices paid for the primary set. Dorsal fins from these and Basking species are regarded as trophy fins fetching thousands of dollars apiece.
As many as 73 million end up in the global shark fin trade every year.
Loving these great shark-related posts from Ocean Scuba Dive? You might also like to read these;
- Facts about Sharks
- Facts about Whale Sharks
- Facts about Great Whites
- Facts about Tiger Sharks
- 15 Most Endangered Sharks in the World
- Save our Sharks from Extinction
- Adopt a Great White Shark
- Adopt a Basking Shark