Great Barracuda - Sphyraena barracuda

Great Barracuda - Sphyraena barracuda

June 6, 2010

Whale Sharks

I knew that the Philipines is the "Center of the Center" - meaning, there is more marine biodiversity there than any other place on earth. But, I did not know that it was home to one of the largest known Whale shark populations. It would make sense.
The Whale sharks have apparently transformed Donsol, Philippines, from a struggling fishing community to one that thrives on ecotourism centered around the fishes. It has been called the "Whale shark capital of the World". According to CNN, the fishermen of Donsol once viewed the sharks as pests. Now, they actively protect the animals, and throw festivals to honor them. Here's a great page about the Whale shark's natural history.

Whale sharks have been, and continue to grow as an attraction. I think it is because they are 'easy to love'. Not surprisingly, people flock to the few aquariums that keep them in captivity. I have mixed emotions about keeping Whale sharks in captivity. Yes, they inspire, yes they educate. But it is a controversial topic as they do not fair well, and the IUCN lists them as Vulnerable. Taking a Whale shark from the ocean and putting it in a tank seems sad to me. And, some experts believe that swimming with captive Whale sharks only stresses them more. But, if the history is correct, and two of the sharks at the Georgia Aquarium were saved from slaughter, then captivity is the lesser of the two evils. Still, what is keeping the aquarium from setting the vulnerable sharks free? (Hint: ticket sales) If they were to, who knows how many offspring might come from it?

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