Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Use of whale sharks is common in eastern countries. In Taiwan, they are a popular source of food, though very expensive. Their flesh is high in water content and has a texture similar to tofu. As of 1997, only two fisheries in Taiwan harvested around 100 sharks each year. In India, when whale sharks are caught by fisheries, they are sometimes used as a source of food. Additionally, their liver contains oil used for waterproofing, shoe polish and to treat some skin diseases. Occasionally whale sharks are accidentally caught in fishing equipment and are sold to aquaria around the world. Whale sharks are currently banned from commercial fishing in Belize, Honduras, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, India, Mexico, the United States, and Australia.
Whale sharks are also a source of ecotourism in areas like Australia and Belize. In Australia's Ningaloo Reef, the best time to scuba dive with the whale shark is between March and May. To avoid crowding a shark, some boat operators will only allow a small number of people in the water at a time. In Belize the best time to dive with whale sharks is between March and June. Because there are few regulations associated with whale shark ecotourism, as many as 80 divers will crowd a single shark.
Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism ; source of medicine or drug
- Davis, D., S. Banks, A. Birtles, P. Valentine, M. Cuthill. 1997. Whale sharks in Ningaloo Marine Park: managing tourism in an Australian marine protected area. Tourism Management, 18/5: 259-271.
- Quiros, A. 2005. Whale shark "ecotourism" in the Philippines and Belize: evaluating conservation and community benefits. Trouble Resources Bulleting, 24: 42-48.
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