Whale Sharks

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January 28, 2014 by kimberlyfenton

Today, my friend sent me an article which is sadly just an addition to the growing list of recent news articles, detailing the cruel treatment of marine animals, seen on a daily basis all over the world.

In the last few weeks, multiple stories have been shared over social media platforms, depicting the horrific stories of dolphins being captured, sold, or slaughtered, in countries such as Japan; even including the cove in which the documentary The Cove was filmed to supposedly raised awareness of this inhumane treatment of animals. On the 25th January this year, Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s efforts to #SaveSharks failed, as the first shark was killed on Australia Day, under the brutal catch-and-kill policy implemented by the WA’s government. I truly believe in the saying “What’s scarier than an ocean with sharks? An ocean without them.” It just keeps getting worse and worse… this is an example of a knee-jerk response to a misguided belief, based on fear, not facts, that a cull of sharks will help to reduce shark attacks.

I started my blog today as part of a University module, and after weeks of reading similarly appalling news, this article about “the biggest ever whale shark slaughter house,” left me feeling disgusted and speechless at the computer; and so I felt like this was the right thing to try and write about for my first proper post.

Swimming with Whale Sharks last year in Mexico, was the most exhilarating and incredible experience I have had to date; these sharks are the biggest fish in the sea, and arguably, one of the most beautiful. I came face to face with the whale sharks a number of times, and they pose no danger to humans, they just stare at you for a while, waiting for you to move, before they themselves turn, and swim the other way. They move so peacefully in the water, that you honestly think you are watching them in slow-mo from the boat. However, what you don’t realise is how fast and hard you have to try an swim in order to keep up with them, due to their sheer size! I absolutely loved my experience, like many others, and believe that these sharks are fascinating.

Whale Sharks are an internationally-protected endangered species, and it has been reported today that a factory in Southern China are openly slaughtering 600 of them annually, in order to produce shark oil for health supplements. This is not only illegal, unnecessary and disgusting; but it is just inhumane!

Alex Hofford and Paul Hilton of WildLifeRisk were quoted in this article saying: “How these harmless creatures, these gentle giants of the deep, can be slaughtered on such an industrial scale is beyond belief. It’s even more incredible that this carnage is all for the sake of non-essential lifestyle props such as lipsticks, face creams, health supplements and shark fin soup. We are calling on China’s regulatory authorities to enforce the international agreements on this illegal activity now, before these animals are brought closer to extinction.”

I was lucky enough to witness first hand how communities soley rely on the Whale Shark tourism. For example, Isla Holbox, is a small island in Mexico where groups of whale sharks aggregate from mid-May to mid-September. The island and the locals have grown up together with the whale sharks, and benefit heavily from the lucrative ecotourism which is attracted every year. These sharks, like others, need to be protected and, as the article stated above, trade in endangered shark products is not only unethical, but it really is environmentally unstable.

Whale Sharks are truly magnificent, friendly giants who migrate through the oceans in groups usually with manta-rays joining them below, and it made me feel sick reading about how they are being transported to China to be slaughtered. This endangered species needs to be admired and protected, instead of being slaughtered for materialistic life-style goods.

The world really is a cruel place for sharks, dolphins, whales and the list could go on… What I have discovered today about whale sharks is sadly nothing new in this world, yet it was still shocking. After being able to get up close and personal with these beautiful fish, I really do hope that more awareness is raised before this reaches new levels of inhumanity.

Check here to see my video on YouTube of my time with the whale sharks.

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