It appears that the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) fishing ban off Taiwan in 2007 is paying off, as researchers with National Taiwan Ocean University have counted an estimated 300 whale sharks in waters off Taiwan, doubling in population since the ban took effect in 2007. The estimation was made Aug. 30 by National Taiwan Ocean University associate professor Chuang Shou-cheng, at the International Whale Shark Day in Cancun, Mexico. It was also announced that the Fisheries Agency of Taiwan will launch a five year program to tag 100 whale sharks and track their activity via satellite.
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, reaching a length of more than 41 feet with a weight exceeding 21 tons. It is a slow moving animal that feeds primarily on plankton and other small marine organisms, but has also been observed eating fish eggs off the coast of Mexico.
The whale shark is listed as ‘vulnerable’ with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Populations appear to have been depleted by harpoon fisheries in Southeast Asia and perhaps incidental capture in other fisheries over recent years.