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 of shark, it is important for us to protect whale sharks and their ocean home.
So whether you decide to learn some whale shark facts or adopt a whale shark today, take the time to raise awareness this International Whale Shark Day and support this amazing creature! To aid you in expanding your whale shark knowledge, we have put together some information about Whale Shark day along with some awesome facts about whale sharks and their conservational status.
So, why not show a little solidarity on International Whale Shark Day and celebrate our finned friends? Go coastal and try and glimpse a whale 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 International Whale Shark Day?
International whale shark day is celebrated every 30th August. This date has been celebrated as International Whale Shark day since 2012 and is used to raise awareness about these gentle giants.
What is International Whale Shark Day all about?
International Whale Shark Day is all about celebrating the gentle giants that are whale sharks. 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 the whale shark has been hunted to vulnerability for its highly prized fins and meat.
Is a Whale Shark a Whale or a Shark?
Is a whale shark a fish or a mammal? Hmmmm… This is the ultimate question! With a face like a whale and a body like a shark, these seemingly frightening creatures are actually gentle giant sharks. That’s right, the Whale Shark is a slow-moving, filter-feeding carpet shark. Whale sharks are in no way related to whales. Although they are sharks, they are very docile and pose no real threats to humans. The whale shark is the largest shark 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 their gigantic size, whale sharks’ teeth are only 6 millimeters long!
Is it True that Each Whale Shark has a Unique Pattern?
Yes, it is. An interesting fact about whale sharks is that a whale sharks 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 individual whale sharks. How amazing is that?
Are Whale Sharks 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 whale shark conservation, the whale shark continues to be hunted for its highly prized fins and meat. The whale shark is listed on our most endangered sharks in the world list and efforts must be made to help raise awareness for these sharks.
Can a Whale Shark Eat a Human?
Whale sharks 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 whale’s belly! And suddenly you might worry that that could actually happen to you. Could a whale shark swallow you by accident?
The answer is no, a whale shark could not swallow a human on purpose or by accident, as Dr. Craig McClain explains;
I know that the esophagus of a whale shark measures only inches across. The massive beast could not choke me down even if it preferred man meat to plankton.
Can you Swim with Whale Sharks?
Yes, you can swim with whale sharks. Swimming with these gentle giants is a life-changing experience, however, it must be done responsibly. The whale shark tourism’s 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 whale shark 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 whale sharks.
What Threats do Whale Sharks Face?
Whale Sharks are very vulnerable to unsustainable fishing. Just like most shark species, whale sharks 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.
Whale sharks move at a very slow-moving pace. They swim at speeds of only 5 kilometers per hour but can dive up to 1,000 meters. Whale sharks 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 whale shark deaths are attributed to the global shark fin trade. The demand for shark fins is primarily driven by the market for shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is a luxury item which is popular in some Asian cuisines. Shark fins 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 Whale Sharks and Basking Sharks are regarded as trophy fins fetching thousands of dollars apiece.
As many as 73 million sharks 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 White Sharks
- Facts about Tiger Sharks
- 15 Most Endangered Sharks in the World
- Save our Sharks from Extinction
- Adopt a Whale Shark
- Adopt a Great White Shark
- Adopt a Basking Shark