Every day, human beings kill off countless species. It’s happening faster and faster, and despite major warning signs, we’re not doing much to fix it. The most recent warning sign comes in the form of a gentle giant: the whale shark. The docile creature has just been listed as endangered.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently assessed the sharks and found that “growing human pressures on whale sharks were putting the species at an ’increasing risk of extinction,’” according to Perth Now.
In the last hundred-or-so years, whale sharks have been floating around, minding their own business, and dying off at an alarming rate. Globally, their numbers have dropped 50%, due to fishing and ship strikes, according to IUCN. Since whale sharks are often found near tuna schools, they’re often accidentally caught.
According to the IUCN’s report, whale sharks are still being relentlessly fished in several countries, including China and Oman. Still, though, there are ongoing conservation efforts in the Philippines and Taiwan, it’s not enough. “Our satellite-tagging program has revealed that some sharks have the ability to move great distances,” said Brad Norman,a whale shark expert and founder of marine conservation charity Ecocean. “[They can move] away from protection in one country to the waters of other countries where they may be vulnerable.”
While they’ve been listed as vulnerable for a while now, whale sharks are now just one step away from critically endangered–a thing that is very, very hard to come back from.
In the past, humans have a poor track record of addressing a very obvious problem. With whale sharks, we know we need to do something–but will we? “We cannot sit back and fail to implement direct actions to minimize threats facing whale sharks at the global scale,” said Norman, “It is clear that this species is in trouble.”