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Whale Shark Conservation
The biological characteristics of the Whale Shark make it extremely susceptible to overexploitation. Its large size, longevity and slow growth mean that recruitment is limited and also suggests that populations are slow to recover from disturbance.
The IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Species lists the Whale Shark as Vulnerable. This means the species is not Critically Endangered or Endangered but is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.
The following summary introduces the IUCN status report for the whale shark:
The life history of this relatively scarce but cosmopolitan tropical and warm temperate species is poorly understood, but it may be relatively fecund and migrates extremely large distances. Catches have declined and populations apparently been depleted by harpoon fisheries in several countries targeting localised concentrations of this huge, slow-moving and behaviourally-vulnerable species, and there is incidental capture in other fisheries. Directed fisheries, high value in international trade, a K-selected life history, highly migratory nature, and low abundance make this species vulnerable to exploitation. In recent years dive tourism involving this species has developed in a number of locations around the world.
A full explanation of the red list status for the whale shark is available from the IUCN Red List website.
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