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Whale Sharks Listed as Endangered Species by IUCUN

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Together, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Program and IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) have been tracking the conservation status of species, subspecies, varieties, and even selected subpopulations on a global scale for more than fifty years. The IUCN has been responsible for highlighting taxa threatened with extinction in order to promote their conservation.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is known for being one of the most comprehensive, objective global approaches for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.

The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is now on the IUCUN’s Red List as an endangered species. The whale shark is the world’s largest living fish (and shark), so its placement on the endangered species list is discouraging at the least. Directed fisheries and significant bycatch fisheries target areas with high densities of Whale Sharks. This has lead to increasingly rapid reductions in catch per unit effort (CPUE) measures. There is evidence of a bias toward juvenile Whale Sharks. A variety of commercial Whale Shark fisheries were shut down between the 1990-2000s, but some countries still catch and threaten Whale Shark populations. Unfortunately, Whale Shark products still remain valuable in the market.

Whale Sharks are highly valued in international markets for their meat, fins, and oil. They are also victims of bycatch, the accidental capture of non-target species in fishing gear.

Whale Sharks are widely known as “gentle giants,” and they typically roam the ocean alone, until they gather in large numbers to feed on plankton. Their large mouths (about five feet wide) engulf enormous amounts of plankton that they filter through their gills as they swim. They’re giants because they weigh on average eleven tons, and they’re about forty feet long.

It is dangerous that Whale Sharks are endangered because they are vital to the health of our oceans. The presence of Whale Sharks indicates the presence of plankton, which represents a healthy ocean.

Scientists study whale sharks and differentiate them by their unique patterns of spots and stripes—similar to human fingerprints. They are photographed right above their pectoral fins and behind their gills. Through this kind of research, WWF has identified 458 individual Whale Sharks since 2007. WWF has placed satellite tags on 29 Whale Sharks.

It is a top priority for us to protect this unique species, and to prevent boat collisions, or any kind of harm to Whale Sharks during our tours. In order to ensure the safety of Whale Sharks, never touch them. Trust your guide and stay calm in the water while swimming beside the Whale Sharks. Only wear organic, all-natural sunscreen, or simply wear rash guards. Please do not apply sunscreen before getting into the water.

Learn more about our Whale Shark Tour from Playa del Carmen.

To learn more about Whale Sharks and our private swimming with Whale Sharks tour to Isla Mujeres, please check out our blog post on Swimming with Whale Sharks. Our tour includes lunch at a beach club on Isla Mujeres, and wetsuits are included. We also provide high quality photos from the day for free. Whale Shark season Mexico runs from the end of May to mid-September.

Learn more and book the Whale Shark Tour Riviera Maya.

You can also download our fact sheet about Whale Sharks here.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to write in the comment section below or send us an e-mail to:

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