Monday, November 28, 2011

Act Now to Save Whale Sharks!

The world’s largest fish is threatened from tuna fishing boats in the western and central Pacific Ocean. Massive purse seine vessels with nets stretching up to a mile and extending 1,000 feet below the surface, cinch fish with a drawstring mechanism that prevents escape. These vessels frequently set their gear around whale sharks to scoop up the tuna that congregate underneath the larger fish.

More than 10 percent of the whale sharks netted this way are killed, and the fate of those released is unknown. The United States operates one of the biggest purse seine fleets for tuna in the region and should lead efforts to protect this impressive species.

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Growing up to 60 feet and living 60 years or more, these gentle giants are filter feeders, eating microscopic prey and small fish. Although whale sharks have been classified as vulnerable to extinction, they are still being caught and killed, and their numbers are declining.

Countries that fish for tuna in the western and central Pacific will soon have the opportunity to protect whale sharks for good. At the upcoming annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), governments will consider an important measure to stop setting purse seine nets around these fish along with other shark conservation measures.

Take action! Urge the U.S. delegation to the WCPFC to support measures that prohibit intentional fishing around whale sharks and protect this gentle giant of the sea.

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