Whale Shark Day 2021
Each year on the 30th of August, we celebrate the majestic gentle giant of the ocean – the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). International Whale Shark Day highlights their wonder, their role in keeping our ocean ecosystems healthy and balanced and the threats they face so that we can collectively work to conserve these beautiful oceanic giants. The Maldives archipelago is one of the few destinations in the world where you can swim with whale sharks throughout the year. The Maldives are renowned for rich biodiversity, colorful coral reefs and unique marine protected areas such as the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll and the SAMPA of South Ari Atoll which is one of the top locations for whale sharks. Villa Hotels & Resorts Sun Island Resort & Spa is located in the South Ari waters within close proximity to several key whale shark spots.
Whale sharks can be identified by their unique pattern of white spots on their thick grey skin. Each whale shark can be identified by the markings on the area just behind their gill slits and just above their pectoral fin where their markings are completely unique, almost like a human finger print.
In the last 75 years, whale shark populations have declined by an estimated 63%. There is a lot of work to be done to raise awareness for whale sharks in their natural habitat. Overfishing, habitat loss, climate change, slow reproduction and even improperly managed tourism all pose threats to their population. The whale shark has been classified as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, however due to the increase in threats this classification changed to endangered which means they are now at risk of extinction.
Whale sharks are the largest member of the shark family and the largest fish in the world. Though they can weigh up to 20 tons and measure up to 14 meters long, these pelagic animals do not evoke the same fearful reaction as other sharks, instead they are graceful and gentle as they glide through tropical waters. As the largest fish in the ocean, whale sharks have an enormous menu to choose from. Fortunately for most ocean creatures, their favorite meal is plankton. These toothless sharks with their enormous size can feed on more than 20 kilograms of plankton a day. The whale shark captures its meal by jutting out its large gaping mouth to capture gulps of plankton that congregate near the water’s surface as they absorb the sunlight for energy.
Nobody knows the exact population of the whale shark. According to some estimates, there are only tens of thousands around the world. Primary reasons for the decline in numbers include illegal fishing, getting trapped in fishing gear, and colliding with boats. Sadly, these beautiful creatures are also hunted for their prized fins and meat. Now more than ever it is crucial to raise awareness about the human threats and focus on conserving the whale shark in order to avoid extinction.
Watch our Whale Shark Day video here.