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Abstract

Prior to 1999, the conservation status of the biggest fish in the sea was listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as ‘Indeterminate – Data Deficient’ in its publication. A Species Report was commissioned in 1999 and the Whale Shark's status was subsequently upgraded to ‘Vulnerable’ in 2000. Much attention has been afforded this species since 2000, with various protective measures implemented at the local, national and international scale. But has it had any effect? Literature Review and discussions with stakeholders from across the globe was used to investigate the current state of play. A recent updated IUCN Report was also consulted. Areas of concern are highlighted and suggested ways forward discussed. Whale Sharks are listed under many international conventions e.g. the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); the Bonn Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). There is however little evidence of actions under these Conventions. The Whale Shark is known to occur in the waters of more than 100 countries – yet it receives protection in less than 50% of these. One country that lists protection for this species is China – the location of the largest active commercial whale shark fishery. Yet enforcement of existing laws is lacking. A review of the conservation status for the Whale Shark was undertaken in 2015 resulting in no change to its ‘Vulnerable’ assessment in the IUCN's 2016 . The main threats are fisheries catches, bycatch in nets, vessel strikes, whale shark tourism, marine pollution, and the inability for implementation/actions under current laws and Conventions. Where are we failing – and what needs to be done? For a start, we need better information, starting with regional and global population assessments to establish population trends globally (at present ‘unknown’ in the latest Assessment). We need improved monitoring of threats and the means to implement adjustments as required (including tourism activities) to minimise impacts. We must have an increased level of data sharing: greater collaboration between researchers, especially to maximise the use of limited available resources to achieve tangible outcomes (which can then be reviewed by relevant authorities when implementing conservation measures). And then an increased level of public education on a local, national and global scale – to help minimise threats (esp. fin trade/habitat destruction e.g. various marine industries; development etc.). Perhaps consumer-driven pressure to make it unviable for stocking/sourcing of whale shark products? And then could it be possible to have a fisheries quota – and benefit the global conservation of this species? Discussions need to be had.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qproc.2016.iwsc4.39
2016-05-15
2019-10-18
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