whale shark (Rhincodon tipus), the largest fish that ever existed, is in serious danger of extinction.. The number of specimens of this species has decreased significantly in recent years, before scientists have yet determined the cause. An international team of researchers from 50 institutions and universities in various countries followed the movements of whale sharks and ships around the world to seek answers. Its result is that shipping causes hundreds of deaths and poses a serious threat to the survival of the species.
Research led by members of the Marine Biological Association (MBA) and the University of Southampton (UK) found that the fatal collisions of whale sharks with large ships have been greatly underestimated and could be the cause of population collapse. The population of the species has decreased by more than 50% in the last 80 years..
Experts have confirmed that whale sharks, which can reach 20 meters in length and weigh more than 34 tons, spend a lot of time in surface waters and congregate in coastal areas. This led them to theorize. Collisions with ships can cause large numbers of whale shark deaths.
The study, published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, aimed to monitor this threat. Identify risk areas and potential collisions. Satellite-tracked movement data for 348 whale sharks was sent to the Global Shark Movement Project, led by MBA researchers.
Regulate the speed of ships
Team, “critical pointswhale sharks overlapping with the world’s cargo ships, oil tankers, cruise ships, and fishing vessels (large types of ships that can kill a whale shark). and confirmed that More than 90% of whale shark movements overlap with shipping activities.
Satellite tracking also showed that transmissions from tagged whale sharks ended up in busy shipping lanes more often than expected. The team came to the conclusion that The loss of most transmissions was due to whale sharks being hit by large ships, dying and sinking to the bottom of the ocean..
University of Dr. Freya Womersley warned, “The shipping industry, which allows us to source a variety of diary products from around the world, could lead to the decline of whale sharks, a very important species in our oceans.” Southampton, who led the study.
it happens maritime transport moves more than 90% of world trade It is a fundamental part of meeting the needs of the markets and reducing the freight cost. The authors of the study, monitor collisions, regulate ship speeds, and take local safeguards to reduce the threat of fatal collision.
Professor David Sims, MBA and researcher at the University of Southampton and founder of the Global Shark Movement Project, stressed that the study shows that most of the tagged whale sharks move along their main cruise routes and then “slowly sink to the bottom”. The sea is hundreds of meters below.
harmless to humans
“It’s sad to think that so many deaths of these incredible animals have occurred around the world because of ship strikes that we didn’t even know how to take action,” added Sims. And right now There are no international regulations to protect whale sharks from collisions with ships.
Therefore, the authors of the investigation sounded the alarm and stated: whale shark faces ‘uncertain future unless action is taken soon’. They hope their findings will condition management decisions to conserve the species and prevent further population declines in the future.
“As group, We must devote time and energy to developing strategies to protect this endangered species from commercial transportation before it is too late.Thus, the largest fish in the world can withstand threats that are predicted to intensify in the future, such as changes in oceanic climates,” said Womersley.
The report reveals an additional problem: “The latent death we propose could also occur for other marine megafauna.”. The text quotes the sunbathing shark (setorhinus maximus), sunfish (cool spp.), sea turtles, especially the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and whales, for example the blue whales of the Indian Ocean (balenoptera musculus).
In addition to collisions with ships, The future of the whale shark is severely threatened by habitat destruction, climate change, accidental entanglement in fishing nets and poaching. to market their meat, fins and oil.
Despite its size, whale shark is completely peaceful and harmless to humans. The species feeds on zooplankton, helps regulate ocean plankton levels, and plays an important role in the marine food web and healthy ocean ecosystems.
Reference article: https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2117440119
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