Connecting the dots: The biology and
conservation of whale sharks
May 2, 2018
Pacific Forum—11:00 a.m.
Having whale sharks in the Georgia Aquarium collection has provided extraordinary opportunities to build knowledge about the world’s largest species of fish and to change public attitudes about conservation of this and other pelagic marine life. Key research projects in the aquarium have included functional anatomy of feeding, discovery of serum biomarkers of health, complete genome sequence and assembly, responses to olfactory cues, and baseline behavioral analysis. Key field research and conservation outcomes have included discovery of the largest known coastal aggregation site (Yucatan, Mexico) and creation of an associated marine protected area, discovery of a new aggregation and probable breeding site (St. Helena Island), and health assessment in Indonesia. More than 23 million aquarium guests have shared in these findings, the public profile of whale sharks is much higher now than when we began, and the species is more regulated than ever before (Conservation of Migratory Species, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife). Future research efforts will focus on completing the life history of whale sharks and studying how their health is affected by human impacts on the ocean, especially plastic and other types of pollution. Together, these efforts will elevate the whale shark as an ambassador for conservation of the pelagic ocean ecosystem.
Next: Haunani Kane