Guest Author: Larry Nielsen
Editor: Patrick Cooney
Here’s a scary thought. You are out fishing and you hook into something substantial. Slowly you reel it in…and it is a fish the size of a school bus! A fantasy? A horror story? Maybe, but there is a fish that fits that description, and today, August 30, is its official day. Happy International Whale Shark Day!
Truth is, though, that the whale shark isn’t scary at all. Yes, it’s big, the biggest fish species in the world. Whale sharks can grow to 50 feet long and reach 40 tons in weight. But unlike other large sharks that get ramped up into a feeding frenzy at the smell of a drop of blood, whale sharks are docile creatures. The Gentle Bens of the ocean. And that gentleness is part of their problem.
Because Whale Sharks spend much of their time in shallow tropical waters and could care less if people or boats are around them, whale sharks are subject to overfishing and vessel strikes. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that global populations are down substantially from pre-industrial levels. Consequently, whale sharks are listed by IUCN as endangered and protected as an Appendix II species under CITES.
Want to learn more about whale sharks? Have I got a deal for you! Just go to my website, Today in Conservation (todayinconservation.com) for the low-down.
I created and host Today in Conservation, which has a story for something that happened in conservation or the environment for every date of the year. That’s right, all 366 of them. Some days stretch the definition of conservation a bit (like “Nature’s Faithful Lovers” on February 14), but, hey, if we’re not having some fun, we’re not doing it right.
My goal for Today in Conservation is to provide an interesting hook for teachers, students, speakers, and others to use or just enjoy. Need to give a talk in a couple of days, on September 1? That’s the day the passenger pigeon went extinct. September 15? That’s when Darwin first saw the Galapagos Islands. You get the idea.
Now I wish I could promise that there would be a story about fish and fisheries on every date, but that isn’t likely. Still there is plenty of plankton for a grazing whale shark to harvest.
For example, February 9 is the birthday of the U.S. Fish Commission, the forerunner of the USFWS (1871). Just a few days and 103 years later, February 12 is the day Judge Boldt handed down his decision that Native Americans owned half the fish in the rivers of the Pacific Northwest.
Martha Williamson, one of the country’s earliest malacologists, was born on March 6 (1843), and the Turbot War began on March 9 (1995). Eugenie Clark, known worldwide as “the shark lady”, was born on May 4 (1922).
And I know you used to have a Golden Guide to Fishes in your tackle box as a young angler and explorer. Me, too. The man who originated those books and co-wrote Guide to Fishes, Herbert Zim, is on the website, too (check out July 12).
Today in Conservation holds the world’s largest and best collection of conservation stories. So, I hope you’ll check it out, today and everyday, and tell your friends about it as well.
And should you need a topic for October 8, you’re in luck. That’s World Octopus Day!
About the Guest Author
Your host for “Today in Conservation” is Larry A. Nielsen. He is an author, educator and conservationist who believes that the world is a better place today than yesterday and that tomorrow will be even better.
To prove the enormous progress we’ve made–along with some notable setbacks–he has amassed a chronology of conservation. During his 40 years as a university professor, he gathered together the history of people, places, and events in conservation and presents them as a daily calendar.
His hope is that teachers will use the entries as interest items for classes; that students will use them as the first step in researching an assigned project; that speakers will use them to stimulate their audiences; and that all of us will use them for a daily does of conservation knowledge. However, you wish to use these entries, please do–and please tell your friends about them.
Larry is always looking for new entries, especially ones that will diversify the content of the calendar. We need to talk more and write more about all the people and events that have influenced conservation, not just the big names (who are almost invariably dead white men!). So, if you have ideas for people, places, events or anything else that you think should be covered, pleased send him an email at email@example.com.
Most calendar entries are serious, but, alas, on some days nothing particularly important has happened. So, for those days, the definition of conservation is stretched a bit. Remember, if we aren’t having a little fun, we’re not doing it right!