Whale shark num­bers de­cline

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

The im­por­tance of marine sanc­tu­ar­ies for the whale sharks’ sur­vival has been highlighted as the threat as­sess­ment of the species — WA’s marine an­i­mal em­blem — is bumped up to en­dan­gered.

The In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture’s lat­est red list as­sess­ment has up­graded the whale shark from vul­ner­a­ble to en­dan­gered, with the or­gan­i­sa­tion cit­ing fish­ing and ship strikes as key rea­sons the pop­u­la­tion has more than halved in the past 75 years.

Whale Sharks have a wel­come refuge on the Nin­ga­loo Coast and mil­lions of dol­lars from var­i­ous gov­ern­ment and non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions have been pumped into re­search to pro­tect the species.

Nin­ga­loo Out­look re­search sci­en­tist Matt Van­derk­lift said pro­tect­ing the whale shark was im­por­tant both for its con­ser­va­tion value and eco­nomic im­por­tance for WA.

“Through the Nin­ga­loo Out­look part­ner­ship with BHP... the goal of the study is to try to un­der­stand the move­ments of the whale sharks,” he said.

“By know­ing where in­di­vid­ual whale sharks go we can start to un­der­stand the risk pro­file they face.

“More marine parks are al­ways good but when you have an­i­mals which don’t re­ally recog­nise bor­ders, you re­ally have to have re­ally co-or­di­nated ap­proach.”

Mr Van­derk­lift said of the seven sharks with satel­lite tags, one was cur­rently at the Row­ley Shoals, two were near the Mon­te­bello Is­lands and the other five had re­mained off the Nin­ga­loo Coast.

While the Nin­ga­loo Coast is a safe haven for the whale shark, they con­tinue to be tar­geted in lo­ca­tions such as south­ern China and Oman.

IUCN red list co-au­thor Brad Nor­man said the lat­est as­sess­ment of whale shark pop­u­la­tions was con­cern­ing.

“We can­not sit back and fail to im­ple­ment di­rect ac­tions to min­imise threats fac­ing whale sharks at the global scale. It is clear that this species is in trou­ble,” he said.

“While list­ing un­der the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species lim­its in­ter­na­tional trade in whale shark prod­ucts, it has no abil­ity to re­strict do­mes­tic trade, which can be sig­nif­i­cant.

Pic­ture: Louise Alling­ham

A whale shark sighted on Nin­ga­loo Dis­cov­ery tour out of Ex­mouth. Whale sharks have re­cently been listed as en­dan­gered species.

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