Article by: Devesh Rai
It is perhaps ironic that a day for a creature so large goes unnoticed.
August 30th, more commonly known as the day Tom Brokaw started anchoring the Today Show, or the day Babe Ruth is thrown out of a game for the 5th time, marks the day of an event far more significant than any of the two occasions mentioned, the International Whale Shark Day! On this day, the largest fish in the world, the whale shark, is celebrated as efforts are made to raise awareness for this distinctive creature.
Whale sharks are an integral part of the ocean ecosystem, and it is unfortunate that these gentle giants of the wet world get little attention. Even ISM, despite being the charitable community that we are, do not give them the attention they deserve, which is perplexing since Whale Shark Day should resonate more deeply with our community than others, due to our location. After all, we are fortunate enough to reside in such close proximity to Donsol, which is an asylum for whale sharks with absolutely no poaching allowed. The fish, protected from the baits and traps of hunters, are able to thrive in Donsol, and the place now boasts the largest school of whale shark in the world. The Whale sharks, ever so magnanimous and eager to repay the favor, help bring tourism to the region. Due to their harmless nature, people even have the opportunity to snorkel beside them. It is extremely unlikely for a person to emerge from the waters without having seen at least five of these mammoth fish.
Watching these amazing creatures glide through the clear blue ocean is truly a phenomenal experience, a point enthusiastically affirmed by sophomore Sofia Jimenez. She swears the experience to be “unforgettable!” Highlighting that “When you’re out there, it‘s really a mix of fear, awe and excitement. It’s like you’re living a scene plucked straight out of Animal Planet.” While the rest of us can only live vicariously through Sofia’s account, there are ample opportunities to experience Donsol’s natural, living wonder in future holidays.
However, focusing on the present, as each annual Whale Shark Day approaches we as a community, should strive together to support the largest gilled species. While we can’t raise global awareness on our own, we can take steps to make the day more appreciated within our own community. One doesn’t need to do an extreme amount; linking a single relevant article or mentioning the whale shark to others will go a long way in bringing them to the forefront of people’s minds. Let’s do our part to celebrate and shelter the whale sharks so they can continue to grace our oceans with their stunning elegance and affection.