Whale Sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean and are also the gentlest of creatures as many divers can testify. Whale Shark numbers are dwindling however and it would be a travesty if we allow this amazing creature to become extinct. Let's take a look at what is happening in terms of numbers and what can be done to ensure the survival of the Whale Shark for future generations.
On the Verge of Extinction?
Is the Whale Shark really on the verge of extinction as muted by many marine biologists and scientists? They are listed as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union as sightings have certainly decreased drastically since the 1980's. The vulnerable status does not mean the Whale Shark is immediately on the verge of extinction but that if things do not change it may become so in future.
Dwindling numbers are exacerbated by the fact that Whale Sharks don't reach sexual maturity until the age of thirty and their reproduction rate is slow therefore when humans hunt and destroy these beautiful creatures there simply are not enough Whale Sharks being born to repopulate their numbers.
Whale Sharks are hunted in Asia for their meat and fins that are considered a delicacy in this region and can be sold for up to $10,000 so, for people who want to make big money they are a prime victim. Over exploitation is a fact for the Whale Shark, while hopefully people who choose to exploit this creature will pay heed to the warnings.
How Can We Help?
There are many organisations that are striving to protect the Whale Shark to ensure this magnificent gentle giant does not disappear from our oceans altogether. One such organisation is the WWF or World Wildlife Fund. Experts study the Whale Shark by using satellite tags and digital cameras using the information to study and help them.
Each individual Whale Shark has a defined pattern on their body that is similar to humans having finger prints therefore this can be used by scientists to study the creatures. Photographs are fed into a database and studied with hundreds of Whale Sharks being identified since 2007, while tagging is also used in order to follow the paths taken by the sharks.
Adopt a Whale Shark
Many of us feel impotent when it comes to helping save the Whale Shark but in reality we can all do our bit. Why not adopt a Whale Shark? An adoption kit would make a great gift for those who like to get involved in any way possible. WWF have a range of adoption kits for sale starting at $25.00 through to $100.00 depending on how much you can afford.
Take for instance the $55.00 adoption kit which is a middle of the road price. The package includes a plush toy version of the shark, colour photograph, adoption certificate, information regarding the shark, personal letter of acknowledgement and free delivery. Email users will also receive pictures of their shark and a printable personalised adoption certificate. This is a perfect gift for a child as it will introduce them to issues surrounding saving wildlife including the Whale Shark.
Sign a Petition
Another great way to get involved is to sign an online petition. One such petition was presented to the President of the United States Barack Obama. The petition featured by change.org was hoping to get the attention of the president in order to save the Whale Shark from extinction. The number of signatures gathered was 1500 which only goes to show how difficult it is to gain support.
Why not start your own petition? Petition Site enables people to start an online petition for free, why not take a look at their site? Change.Org also enables users to start their own petition.
Take a Photograph
Divers can help by taking photographs of Whale Sharks they encounter and submitting them to whaleshark.org that will use the pictures to collate information in order to help preserve this amazing species. Divers can also report sightings at the website too, while with every bit of data submitted you can be sure that scientists and observers will utilise it to promote this worthy cause.