INTERNATIONAL WHALE SHARK DAY
International Whale Shark Day on August 30th aims to increase awareness about a magnificent sea-dwelling creature. The whale shark’s declining numbers alerts us to their need for protection and conservation. These gentle giants fascinate marine biologists and aquatic enthusiasts alike.
You know about whales, and you know about sharks. But have you heard of the whale shark? Whale sharks are a type of filter-feeding carpet shark. Despite their size, they are considered gentle giants.
Whale Shark Facts:
- Weighing over 20 tons, the whale shark is the largest fish in the sea.
- A whale shark lives an average of 70 years.
- Some whale sharks grow to over 32 feet long.
- These gentle giants are about the same size as a bus.
- The whale shark’s habitat is found in the tropical seas around the world.
- Whale sharks are carnivores, but their teeth are only 6 mm long.
- Like human fingerprints, whale sharks each have a unique skin pattern.
Whale sharks are quite majestic. Unfortunately, they are becoming endangered. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), whale sharks are one of the most vulnerable marine animals.
In 2016, the IUCN reclassified the whale shark from vulnerable to an endangered species. Nobody knows the exact population of the whale shark. According to some estimates, there are only tens of thousands around the world. Primary reasons for the decline in numbers include illegal fishing, getting trapped in fishing gear, and colliding with boats. Since whale sharks move slowly, they’re easily caught. In certain parts of the world, such as Asia, products made from whale sharks are in high demand.
Another threat to whale sharks is plastic. Waste plastics finds its way to the oceans. When a whale shark feeds close to the surface, they easily ingest the plastic. This garbage gets lodged in the digestive tract. When this happens, a whale shark can no longer eat. Eventually, the large fish starves to death.
All of these things combined lead to the endangered status of the whale shark and the need to protect them.
HOW TO OBSERVE #InternationalWhaleSharkDay
The best way to observe International Whale Shark Day is to learn more about this sea animal. You could also donate to an organization that helps protect the whale shark. A few organizations include the Sea Shepherd Conservations Society, Cousteau Divers, and Plastic Oceans. These organizations also offer excellent ways to get involved. While you’re visiting the sites, learn more about this amazing animal and what’s being done to protect them.
Try to limit your use of plastic products, and never throw them into a body of water. If you do use plastic, be sure to recycle it.
The internet is full of amazing photos of whale sharks. Why not share a photo on social media? When doing so, don’t forget to use #InternationalWhaleSharkDay
INTERNATIONAL WHALE SHARK DAY HISTORY
During the International Whale Shark Conference in 2008 in Isla Holbox, over 40 whale experts and ocean activists declared August 30th International Whale Day. Since then the day continues to educate the world about the whale’s declining numbers.