A Southern California fish spotter captured aerial footage showing a 20-foot rare & endangered whale shark swimming lazily on the surface southeast of Santa Catalina Island. Whale sharks are included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of endangered species for 2021.
The footage is extremely rare because whale sharks – the largest shark and fish species on the planet – inhabit tropical waters and do not typically range so far north. The term “whale shark” describes a group of giant fish that can grow to be as huge as some species of whales and, most notably, eat in a manner similar to that of numerous species of baleen whales. The megamouth shark and the basking shark are the only other shark species that exhibit this feeding behavior, and whale sharks are notable for having unusually wide mouths and being known as filter feeders.
Around the world, tropical oceans are home to whale sharks, which can grow to be 40 feet long and 20,000 pounds in weight. The places where they are most frequently seen are Mexico, Belize, Western Australia, and Thailand.
Because they are so placid while swimming in search of plankton, krill, and small fishes, the filter feeders are sometimes referred to as gentle giants. Whale sharks are occasionally accompanied by remoras and pilot fish, which eat the germs and parasites that grow on their enormous bodies.
Whale sharks cannot bite or chew since they are filter feeders. Their gills can process more than 6,000 liters of water each hour. A whale shark’s mouth can open up to four feet wide, but because its teeth are so small, it can only ingest small shrimp, fish, and plankton by using its gill rakers as a suction filter.
Whale sharks, according to National Geographic, are the biggest fish in the ocean. Despite preferring warmer waters, they are present in all tropical oceans. They are relatively peaceful creatures despite their ferocious name: and because they don’t mind people at all, they have been known to occasionally let them ride on their backs.
International markets place a high value on whale sharks. The species is still threatened by the demand for their meat, fins, and oil, especially from unrestricted fisheries. They have been accidentally caught in fishing equipment as by catch, or non-target species.
As they spend a lot of time at the surface when feeding on plankton, giant whales and sharks are particularly susceptible to being hit and killed by huge vessels. According to recent research, the largest fish in the world may be more vulnerable to this hazard than previously thought.
There are currently no precise and accurate estimations of the whale shark population worldwide.
Despite this, the species has been listed as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) due to the effects of fishing, by catch losses, garbage pollution, and vessels. These elements, along with the whale shark’s extremely long lifespan and relatively late puberty, are a tragedy waiting to happen.
This indicates that whale sharks are in fact passing away more quickly than they can reproduce, which is cause for alarm in and of itself. Whale sharks are among the gentlest monsters of the ocean, yet due to no fault of their own, they are now critically endangered.
There is always study to be done and steps to be made to safeguard the safety of this species, and if humans cooperate and can be more watchful with what we eat and how we eat it, whale sharks may not yet be extinct.