The whale shark is listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2010 Red List of Threatened Species. It is also listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and Appendix II on the Bonn Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS). Although now protected in some countries, the migratory nature of the threatened whale shark may result in their moving from a protected area to a hunting zone. Human induced habitat destruction is also a major threat to this filter feeder, which is dependent upon food pulses and critical habitats to survive. Humans interfering with the natural behaviour of the sharks (boating / tourism) can also cause disruption and drive this species from critical habitats.  To date, location of breeding and birthing grounds remain undefined.

Whale sharks are listed as ‘vulnerable’ in Australia under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act 1999). There are various State and Federal Government management plans to ensure they are protected in Australian waters.

Ningaloo Commonwealth Waters Plan 2002-2009 (1.2Mb pdf in new window)
Whale Shark Recovery Plan 2005-2010  (170kb pdf in new window)
State Ningaloo Marine Park Plan 2005-2015  (5.1Mb pdf in new window)
Whale Shark Interaction Management Program  (3.7Mb pdf in new window)

ECOCEAN has been very successful in contributing to the protection of this species both internationally and nationally having i) prepared the Species Report for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which upgraded the international conservation status for this species from ‘Indeterminate – Data Deficient’ to ‘Vulnerable to Extinction’ in 2000; ii) successfully nominated the whale shark on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) in 2001; iii) provided researched documents for inclusion (and attended the United Nations Meeting in support) in the successful nomination to have the whale shark listed under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2002; and iv) attended in support (as one of only ten official invited non-government organisations) all three meetings (Seychelles (2007), Rome (2008), Philippines (2010)) of the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)  which successfully developed an international Memorandum of Understanding between over 100 countries for the conservation of migratory sharks.