Whale sharks are a large species of filter feeding sharks and are known to be the largest fish species in the world. They can grow up to 12.65 m (41.5 ft) long and weigh up to 21.5 metric tons (47,000 lbs), although there are reports that larger specimens exist. Whale sharks can be found in all warm and tropical oceans of the world and spend most of the lives in the open sea. It is believed that they can live for up to 100 years and can be successfully kept in captivity. Whale sharks are majestic creatures and are not a significant threat to humans. The whale shark is threatened in the wild and is officially listed as a vulnerable species. Let’s find out why these animals are under threat.
Why are whale sharks endangered?
The whale shark is protected in many parts of its range, but commercial fisheries for this animal do exist in certain parts of the world. The shark is hunted (sometimes illegally) in certain parts of Asia. In an effort to protect the species the Philippines, India and Taiwan have banned all fishing, selling and importing/exporting of this species. Another great threat to the species was the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. This region is home to one-third of all whale shark sightings and it is thought that the oil spill greatly affected the species in this area. The exact population of this species is unknown and more research will need to be done to protect this magnificent animal.
Did you know?
Despite their name, whale sharks are not related to whales. This name was given to the species because of its enormous size!
Very few whale sharks are kept in captivity, but four whale sharks can be found at the Georgia Aquarium.