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Whale Shark Conservation

Historically in certain parts of the world, whale sharks have been hunted for their flesh, fins and liver oil. The meat, considered a delicacy in some cultures, has been referred to as "tofu shark" because of its soft texture. The fins have been used in medicinal tonics and shark fin soup. The liver oil has been used to paint boats and wooden surfaces for water-proofing (Vivekanandan and Zala, 1992). With limited information on their population size and highly migratory behavior, harvesting whale sharks in one region could have detrimental effects locally and reduce populations worldwide.

Their large body size and life history traits, such as slow growth rate, late age of maturation, and low fecundity (number of offspring), make whale sharks susceptible to overexploitation. This species is now protected on an international basis by its listing as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and its inclusion in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. (CITES). In response to this international protection, some nations that once harvested whale sharks now ban their capture and sale (Simons, 2007). In the United States, whale sharks are protected from directed commercial fishing, landing or sale. ( functioning 4/18/10)

Literature Cited

Simons, Craig. "Taiwan to Ban Whale Shark Harvest." Cox News Service 23 05. 2007. Washington Bureau. 02 03. 2008.

Vivekanandan, E. and Zala, M.S. 1992. Whale Shark fishery off Veraval. Indian Journal of Fisheries 41 (1): 37-40.