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News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Whale Sharks Move onto the Endangered List

Posted On August 30, 2016 by

Written by Dr. Alistair Dove

You may have seen in the press the recent announcement from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, that whale sharks (along with the enigmatic wing head shark) have been downgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List.  I thought it might help to explain exactly what that means, so I’ve done it as a sort of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What’s “the IUCN Red List”?
The Red List is a sort of master-file about the conservation status of different species.  As you can see from the screen capture below, the ranking goes from Least Concern (LC) for really common species, all the way down to Extinct (EX), with a couple of other categories for species that haven’t been evaluated (Not Evaluated NE) or that were evaluated but there wasn’t enough scientific data to decide on a status (Data Deficient DD).  All of these levels are recoverable, except for Extinct (EX); there ain’t no coming back from gone.

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Inspiration at 30 Feet

Posted On November 20, 2015 by

I looked up just as the water above me darkened. Within an arm’s length, a massive whale shark passed over my head, its tail methodically propelling it forward. I caught its improbably small eye looking intently at me as it glided past. Directly behind came a second whale shark and then another.

But I wasn’t swimming in the ocean – I was 30 feet below the surface, at the bottom of the 6.3 million gallon Ocean Voyager exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium. As a marine scientist, I’ve logged a lot of dives in places from tropical reefs to temperate kelp forests. But I’d never been this up close and personal with the world’s biggest fish. In the wild, whale sharks can grow to 40 feet and nearly 50,000 pounds; those at the Georgia Aquarium are a relatively “small” 25 feet in length.

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