Whale sharks at risk of extinction due to collisions with ships. According to the study by the Marine Biological Association and the University of Southampton, it would be an underestimated danger, but one that is decaming the species.
The very worrying decrease in whale sharks in recent years has led to several hypotheses and several studies, the one proposal concerning collisions between sharks and ships was the most shared, even if it is not yet known why this species comes close to boats.
The researchers, through satellites and tags, collected data by monitoring the movements of whale sharks and ships in all oceans, discovering which were the areas of risk. Transmissions from the tags ended in areas with busiest routes.
The researchers concluded that the loss of transmissions was due to the animals being hit and killed. Freya Womersley, one of the researchers who carried out the study in the context of the Global Shark Movement Project, said: "The shipping industry that allows us to source a variety of everyday products from around the world, could cause the decline of whale sharks, which are an extremely important species in our oceans.
The appearance is typical of a shark, however it has a wider and flattened body on the back, with a blunt head and a very wide mouth. Up to 20 meters long, with an average weight of 34 tons. Its skin is among the thickest in the animal kingdom, up to 14 cm.
Despite its frightening appearance, it is relatively harmless to humans, who can approach it with the only risk of being inadvertently hit by its enormous size. It feeds almost exclusively on plankton, filtering food with its gills.
The two dorsal fins are not very large and positioned in the posterior half of the body. The caudal fin is almost symmetrically bilobed, the pelvic fins are located inferiorly, while the pectoral fins are very wide and positioned under the last two gill slits.
The leather has small checkerboard protrusions highlighted by the livery with white dots on a blue-greenish background. The belly is whitish. The whale shark is a fish that is still caught today by some countries where it is consumed both raw and cooked, for food, industrial and popular purposes.
In 1982 the UN commission on the sea classified it as a migratory species in need of scientific studies to understand its risk of extinction.
In 1999 the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species considered it a species with an unfavorable conservation condition and since 2003 an attempt has been made to diplomatically prohibit its trade in countries that hunt and consume whale sharks. The IUCN Red List classifies it as endangered.