Whale sharks – big, lumbering and friendly – will now be safer due to new fishing net regulations agreed upon at a recent conference of Asia and Pacific nations, which took place in Manila, Philippines.

Tuna fishermen have been using the whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) by setting their nets underneath the sharks in order to catch other fish that use the big lugs as cover. According to AFP, 50 whale sharks officially died from getting entangled in tuna nets in 2010, though the actual number may be much higher.

Furthermore, a recent study has declared that whale shark eco tourism in Australia is not harmful to the species.

From the West Australian:

The research, conducted by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of WA over a five-year period at Ningaloo, found that whale sharks which frequently encountered tourists are just as likely to return to the reef as sharks that only interact with a few humans.

Whale shark, pic: Andy Tyler (Flickr CC)

Good news for Western Australia’s tourism industry too, as whale sharks tourism has grown 17 fold from 1993-2011. We can only hope that the findings are unrelated to this statistic. Don’t be so cynical!

Great white sharks, on the other hand – vicious and evil devils that they are – have been attacking more than they normally do. Half of the last fatal attacks of the last 20 years in Western Australia have occurred over the last year’s time. What’s up with that?

From AAP:

Snorkellers and divers have been the targets of the most attacks in WA in the past 20 years, followed by surfers. Swimmers are the least likely to be killed or injured despite being most prevalent in the water.

Maybe the increase in fatal great white attacks has something to do with an increase in snorkelling and surfing, then? I know, I know… correlation does not equal causation. It was just a thought.

Even if anti great white sentiment has sparked a bit of a backlash in Australia, most great whites are killed by the same thing that’s been killing whale sharks – fishing nets – and in much greater numbers than their bigger, vegetarian cousins.

Beach-goers in Tasmania have also been encouraged to be fearful of great whites by certain media outlets, despite the fact that there have been only two great white attacks in Tasmania in nearly 20 years – one fatal in 1993 and another in 2009. Not such bad odds, truth be told.

Great white, pic: Michael Fontenot (Flickr CC)