Hello again everyone. Today's blog will be much shorter than my last, but has extremely important news in it. Earlier this month one species of shark was upgraded (or downgraded depending how you look at it) from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN's Red List. Another species of shark jumped from Near Threatened to Endangered as well. In addition, the Bornean Orangutan was upgraded to Critically Endangered... Just one small step from extinction. Today I'll be focusing on the two shark species, moreso one than the other. For more information on the orangutan you'll have to head to google or yahoo or whatever search engine of your choice.
The first shark I'll admit I know little about as it is not a local species of shark to me and have only been learning about it over the past few days. This species of shark was listed on the IUCN's Red List as Near Threatened back in 2003. Earlier this month it was relisted as Endangered. This species is commonly known as the winghead shark or the slender hammerhead shark. This species of shark can be found in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans along the continental shelf. As is the case with many species throughout this shark's range, this species is dealing with intense exploitation. As with other hammerheads, the winghead shark is highly sought after for it's fins. It is also sought after as one of the few species of shark sold for it's meat (for fishmeal). Extremely high catch rates throughout it's range (with the exception of Australia where populations seem to be a bit more stable) have caused a steady decline in this slowly maturing species of shark. Unlike several other species of shark, the winghead shark currently has no protections other than Australia's fisheries laws.
The second shark is one that I have blogged about multiple times on this blog and it is quite heartbreaking for me to have to type this out. The second shark on this list was been upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered. That species of shark is the largest fish in the oceans, the whale shark. As I've mentioned time and times again in the past, this species of shark can grow to be over forty feet and weigh several tons. Despite it's size the whale shark is one of the most gentle fish in the seas. It's throat is about the size of a quarter and it's mouth can open to be four feet wide. Truly and incredible animal, but sadly, an animal that is now endangered. The whale shark inhabits all but the Southern Ocean in areas where warm water occurs. In the Atlantic they have been seen as far north as New Jersey and as far south as South Africa. In the Pacific Ocean they can found from China to Australia. They can also be found throughout the Indian Ocean as well. It is in the Indo-Pacific that these animals are currently facing the most pressure. Population declines are now estimated to be over fifty percent which is a terrible situation. In southern China there is a very large whale shark fishing operation that continues to grow. It is this fishery that is now the largest threat to the whale sharks of the Indo-Pacific. Unlike the winghead, the whale shark does have several protections including being listed of Appendix II of CITES, Annex 1 (highly migratory) of UNCLOS, among others along with various nations have their own laws in regards to catching this shark as well. The whale shark is in big demand for it's fins, liver oil, and meat (used for various products). One whale shark fin can sell for over fifty thousand dollars. These animals now more than ever need our help and now time is clearly their enemy.
Stay tuned for more whale shark related blogs in the near future! Remember. Extinction is forever. If we lose these animals now. We will never have a chance at bringing them back.