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Whale Shark FAQ

Are whale sharks endangered?
No, whale sharks are listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Redlist. The species is considered vulnerable because of pressures from unregulated fisheries in China, India and the Philippines. There are no fishing pressures on whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea.

Where did the Georgia Aquarium’s whale sharks come from?
Georgia Aquarium partnered, in part, with Taiwan to bring whale sharks to Atlanta because Taiwan is a country dedicated to conservation and education. Taiwan fished for whale sharks for consumption in the past and recently moved from a fisheries managed quota of 60 animals to 30 in 2007. Hundreds of whale sharks are taken through unregulated fishing by other countries in the region, prompting Taiwan to make the conservation initiative to no longer fish for whale sharks for consumption in 2008 and beyond. Georgia Aquarium applauds Taiwan for its leadership in conservation in the region, moving from a fishing-based economy around whale sharks to an eco-tourism-based economy around whale sharks.

How does the Georgia Aquarium know how to care for whale sharks?
Whale sharks have been in aquariums in Asia for decades. While early stages of care were in small exhibits with simple husbandry practices, the Asian aquariums have advanced whale shark care greatly. In Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Japan, one of their whale sharks has been on display for 12 years. Georgia Aquarium took its centuries of combined husbandry experience in the care of elasmobranches (sharks, skates and rays) and combined it with the knowledge developed by the Asian aquariums. The sharing of knowledge continues today between Georgia Aquarium and the five other facilities that care for whale sharks in Asia.

How long do whale sharks live?
The aging and life span of whale sharks has not yet been determined. We know for certain they can live at least 12 years because a whale shark has been on display in Japan for that long. The life span of whale sharks is just beginning to be studied and is not understood at this time. A long-term goal of the Georgia Aquarium is to understand the life span and natural history of whale sharks.

Where does the funding come from for the whale shark program?
The Georgia Aquarium is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization funded by ticket sales and donations. Donations specifically to help support the research and care of our animals can be made to our 4R program (Rescue, Research, Responsibility and Rehabilitation).

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