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Whale Sharks – Research and Conservation Status

Whale shark populations are declining around the world. In 2006 they were listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

– There are a number of threats to whale sharks around the world. These include boat strikes, ingestion of plastics, entanglement in ghost nets and being targeted directly for their fins. One whale shark dorsal fin can fetch up to US $15,000.

– Although now protected in some countries, the migratory nature of these species means some whale sharks may move from protected waters into hunting zones. Thankfully, here at Ningaloo, our waters are protected and we have a healthy population visiting the area every year, making it one of the best places to come and swim with these beautiful animals.

– ECOCEAN (Australia) is a non-for-profit organisation in Western Australia currently researching the whale sharks off Ningaloo.

– With whale sharks each having their own individual spot patterning, just like our fingerprint, photographs of the skin patterning behind the gills of each shark make in possible to distinguish between individual animals. Over the past 25 years since the establishment of ECOCEAN more than 1700 different individual whale sharks have been identified from the region.

– ECOCEAN use satellite tags to help monitor the movement of whale sharks in the ocean. The aim is to gain a better understanding of where whale sharks are going when they are not in the region, with the hope protected waters can be expanded to ensure the safety of these beautiful sharks

How can I be involved?

– If you’re out on the water and you manage to get a photograph of a whale shark that shows any distinguishing features send it in to the whale shark photo-identification database known as Wildbook ( This database currently holds in excess of 50,000 photos of whale sharks photographed in 54 countries. While you’re on the database why not look at how you can adopt your very own whale shark!
– You already are! If you are coming out on a tour with us a portion of your ticket price is already going towards whale shark research and conservation!
– If you want to do more, jump on to the ECOCEAN website ( and see ways you can support the not-for-profit organisation.