Whale shark

whale shark © Brian J. Skerry

The whale shark is the world’s largest fish, with an average length of 14-20 meters. Yet, their diet consists of one of the ocean’s smallest organisms -- plankton. These filter-feeders can live to be 100 years old and may have up to 300 young per litter.

A majority of whale sharks are caught before they even reach maturity. Their fins fetch a high price in Asian markets, although trade is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Overfishing is a serious concern as whale shark populations are decreasing in numerous regions and the average size of Australian whale sharks is shrinking.

Whale sharks have become a tourist attraction for divers. In surveying over 500 scuba divers, Oceana’s "Sea the Value" report showed sharks are worth more alive than dead.