Whale sharks - the gentle giants of the seas
We know already that the whaleshark is the largest fish in the ocean. This year Koh Tao has been blessed with an amazing season of these spotty and friendly giants – divers have been delighted by whalesharks almost daily on the deeper dive sites around.
Even though observed regularly the whaleshark is classified as endangered. The individuals seen in the waters around Koh Tao are generally small and young, much less than ten meters in length. Sightings of larger and older individuals are extremely rare.
Where have the whalesharks gone?
The biggest threat is illegal fishing; because of the sheer size of the whaleshark compared to other shark species even one individual will yield plenty of ingredients for shark fin soup, traditional Chinese medicine and other products.
In the international waters illegal fishing is difficult to prevent since no countries’ laws apply. The trade for shark products is so lucrative that in poorer countries the officials struggle to prevent it. Even though international regulations have controlled the sales of shark fins and other products from years ago the illegal fishing industry keeps on hunting whalesharks.
Tourism can also be a risk for the species, as the shark can be hit by and damaged by boats and their propellers. On the other ecotourism operators spend time, energy and money in the protection of the whaleshark since they do bring in travelers.
What can I do?
- Support regulations on the shark fin soup and spread the word!
- Boycott restaurants that serve shark
- Support conservation agencies either by volunteering or donating
- Use ecotourism operators on your travels – this way you help the local ecosystem survive and thrive
A big thank you for the photos for Pejk Berghäll and Charlie from FatFish Movies