[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Taiwan trying to conserve whale sharks


(Taiwan Today)

In the News
Taiwan expands whale shark conservation efforts

Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha (left) and National Taiwan Ocean University representatives announce a collaborative research project on whale sharks Sept. 19. (CNA)
Publication Date:09/20/2011
Source: Taiwan Today
By June Tsai
The Fisheries Agency under the Council of Agriculture Sept. 19 announced a joint project with National Taiwan Ocean University and the animal conservation organization Wildlife21 to attach satellite tags to 100 whale sharks in the next five years.

The research will generate important information on the shark's migratory routes and living habits, and help expand the agency's ongoing efforts to raise public awareness of conservation, according to Director-General James Sha.

The whale shark, a highly migratory species, has been a target of fishermen in the Asia-Pacific region, including Taiwan, for its tender meat, and its numbers have decreased sharply in recent years due to overfishing and the animal's low rate of reproduction and long maturation period, the agency said.

NTOU was first commissioned in 2002 to tag whale sharks to gain information on their migratory routes and living habits, Sha said. Since then 353 whale sharks had been tagged, 323 with conventional tags and 30 with satellite tags. Researchers have received data transmitted from nine of the latter, showing some have traveled as far as the central Pacific.

"Conservation efforts by Taiwan and neighboring Southeast Asian countries have helped the number of whale sharks rise," said Chuang Shou-cheng, associate professor in the university's Department of Environmental Biology and Fisheries Science.

Taiwan began a reporting system for whale shark catches in 2001. Fishing was controlled starting in 2002, after the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora listed the species as threatened by extinction if trade is not subject to strict regulation. From 2005, catch quotas were reduced yearly, and in 2008 whale shark fishing was banned outright.

Chuang estimated that before the prohibition, around 100 whale sharks were caught in Taiwan waters annually, while there is now a population of some 300.

Such conservation efforts require international collaboration, Chuang said, adding that most countries in the region, with the exception of Japan and mainland China, have banned the taking of whale sharks.

Rebecca Lisson, executive director of Wildlife 21, said Taiwan is playing a leading role in international whale shark research and protection. (THN)

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