Shipping poses risk to whale sharks’ environment worldwide

WHALE shark’s large size makes it common for them to collide with ships, causing unfortunate and lethal injuries, reports Paris-based Sustainability Times.

The previously overlooked matter could be the reason why populations of the world’s largest fish have been falling.

The creatures are slow-moving animals that feed on microscopic zooplankton and spend the majority of their time in surface waters while gathering in coastal regions.

To study the matter, scientists from 50 international research institutions and universities are tracking 350 whale sharks and large ships worldwide with help of satellites in the Global Shark Movement project.

The researchers then identified hotspots where the movements of cargo, tanker, passenger, and large fishing vessels overlapped with the sharks.

“Incredibly, some of the tags recording depth, as well as location, showed whale sharks moving into shipping lanes and then sinking slowly to the seafloor hundreds of metres below, which is the ‘smoking gun’ of a lethal ship strike,” said Marine Biological Association senior research professor David Sims.


“It is sad to think that many deaths of these incredible animals have occurred globally due to ships without us even knowing to take preventative measures.”

Whale sharks provide significant ecological benefits as they help regulate plankton levels in the oceans.

Said University of Southampton project leader Freya Womersley: “The maritime shipping industry that allows us to source a variety of everyday products from all over the world, may be causing the decline of whale sharks, which are a hugely important species in our oceans,”

“Collectively we need to put time and energy into developing strategies to protect this endangered species from commercial shipping now, before it is too late, so that the largest fish on Earth can withstand threats that are predicted to intensify in future, such as changing ocean climates.”


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