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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Woeful tale of maimed whale shark

Great coverage by BBC News on whale shark tagging in the Maldives and the disturbing reality of the threats to whale shark populations.
Tagging whale sharks in the Maldives
Tuesday, 5 May 2009 13:29 UK, BBC News

Whale sharks - Rhincodon typus - were first discovered in the 1800s and are found throughout the tropical oceans, but relatively little is known about their behaviour, how long they live, their breeding habits, or their migratory routes - or indeed whether they migrate.

Using software similar to fingerprint-matching technology, the snaps of the shark's spot patterns are compared to see if it has previously been photographed or is a new find. So far they have recorded 106 on the database, all but two of which are male.

Back on the boat, the team explain the sad story behind "Joey's" fin.

He was first photographed by the group in 2007 in perfect health. Then, one night last year, they got a call from people on a local island saying that there was an injured whale shark floating in the island harbour.

Arriving at the scene, Richard saw that it was Joey, who had suffered an unsuccessful finning attempt - his dorsal fin was very nearly severed, left hanging on by a small segment.

"It was a terrible injury, we thought he probably wouldn't survive," Richard says. But in time the wound healed and Joey is still swimming around.

A shark fin of this size can go for $10,000 (£6,600) in Taiwan or Hong Kong, and can be used as an eye-catching billboard outside a restaurant serving shark fin soup.

The tale of Joey, a whale shark who nearly lost his dorsal fin to hunters.

Joey's story is sobering, despite our euphoria over being lucky enough to spot these incredible creatures. Luckily for them, the new Maldivian government is beginning to take shark welfare seriously and has introduced a reef shark hunting ban throughout the 26 atolls.

Whale sharks are described as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, with their population expected to decline by as much as 50% over the next century.

But in truth, nobody knows how vulnerable they are, the true number of whale sharks in the world, or whether that number is in decline or increasing.

Click here to watch the video on "Joey" from the post below.
Woeful tale of maimed whale shark
Tuesday, 5 May 2009 13:29 UK, BBC News

Gaia Vince reports from the South Ari atoll in the Maldives on the successes and challenges of tagging whale sharks.

Little is known about the breeding and migratory habits of the sharks, the world's largest fish.

Here, Richard Rees and Adam Harman discuss the case of Joey, a whale shark that nearly lost its dorsal fin to hunters.

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