Whales and sharks are two groups of sea creatures that have always aroused the admiration and fascination of humans. However, few realize that there is a species that combines the characteristics of both these creatures – the whale shark. This majestic inhabitant of the oceans is the largest species of shark and also one of the largest representatives of the fish world. Unfortunately, in the face of increasing threats such as overfishing, water pollution and the effects of climate change, the whale shark population is drastically declining, threatening to become completely extinct.
To draw attention to this disturbing trend and highlight the importance of the whale shark to the health and sustainability of marine ecosystems, International Whale Shark Day is celebrated every year on August 30. This is an opportunity to educate the community about this amazing creature, promote conservation efforts, and celebrate the place it holds in the rich mosaic of marine life.
Whale shark – interesting facts
Although the name “whale shark” may suggest a mix of two different creatures, it is actually a shark, but of unusual proportions. It is the largest ever representative of its species. With the ability to reach lengths of up to 18 meters and weighing an average of 12 tons, the whale shark is a true giant of the marine world.
Despite its huge body size, the dentition that the whale shark possesses is surprisingly small. The teeth, measuring just six millimeters, are sufficient for their diet, which consists mainly of plankton. These “toothless” sharks can eat more than 20 kilograms of it each day!
The whale shark is oviparous, meaning that the young develop inside the mother’s body. A female can give birth to up to 16 young at a time. They reach sexual maturity only after 25 years. These sharks sometimes live up to 150 years.
What’s fascinating is that each whale shark has unique skin patterns. This unique combination of stains is as individual as human fingerprints and allows researchers to identify and monitor individuals in their natural habitat.
Despite their majestic appearance, whale sharks are incredibly sensitive to changing environmental conditions. They prefer shallow waters, usually swimming at a depth of about 50 meters, although they can submerge to 1,000 meters. Their leisurely pace of about 5km/h makes them vulnerable to various dangers, such as collisions with boats or entanglement in fishing nets.
The role of the whale shark in the marine ecosystem
The whale shark, with its imposing appearance and size, need not fear other ocean predators. Due to this position in the food chain, it is considered a so-called “food chain. apex predator. These giant creatures play a key role in maintaining balance in marine ecosystems.
Scientific studies have shown that in ecosystems where apex predators have become extinct, populations of their prey are growing rapidly. In the case of whale sharks, this would be excessive plankton growth. Although it is essential to the health of the oceans and forms the basis of the food chain, an excess of it can be harmful to the ecosystem.
An excess of plankton can lead to a phenomenon known as algal blooms, which in turn can produce toxins harmful to other sea creatures. They affect fish, crustaceans and even larger marine mammals. As a result, algal blooms can have a negative impact on the entire food chain, including humans who consume fish and seafood contaminated with toxins.
Why celebrate International Whale Shark Day?
The whale shark plays a key role in marine ecosystems. It is a natural regulator of plankton levels in the ocean, and its potential extinction would have far-reaching consequences for the balance of the marine world. Unfortunately, despite its importance, it is becoming one of the most endangered marine species.
The trade in whale shark fins and meat is leading to overfishing and poaching. Every year, the population declines and survival is increasingly uncertain. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2016. has placed the whale shark on the endangered species list. The exact number of individuals in the population is not known, but it is estimated that there are only a few tens of thousands of these amazing creatures left in the world.
Illegal fishing, boat collisions and plastic waste in the oceans pose a serious threat to the whale shark. These peaceful, slow-moving creatures often become victims of unsuspecting fishermen and ocean pollution. Plastic waste that ends up in their digestive tracts can lead to starvation.
The observance of International Whale Shark Day aims to highlight issues and raise public awareness about the importance of this animal to the health of the oceans. This is an opportunity to emphasize the need to protect the species and encourage people to act for its survival. It is worth celebrating this day to remind ourselves of the responsibility we have to our planet and its inhabitants.
How do we celebrate #InternationalRekinWhale Day?
Want to celebrate International Whale Shark Day? Start by learning more about this fascinating marine giant. Support organizations that work to protect it, such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Cousteau Divers and Plastic Oceans. By going to their websites, you can learn more about the activities being undertaken and the opportunities for support.
Remember that each of us has an impact on the environment. Limit consumption of single-use plastic products and make sure they don’t end up in the oceans. If you already use plastic, make sure it goes to recycling.
Share your fascination with whale sharks on social media! Search and share stunning photos of these creatures to inspire others. Remember, by using #InternationalWhaleSharkDay, you can help spread awareness about this important day and the need to protect the whale shark.