Taiwan – Whale Shark in Captivity – Letter to the Taiwanese Minister of Agriculture

The Hon. Dr Wu-Hsiung Chen
Minister, Council of Agriculture
37 Nanhai Road
Taipei
Taiwan 10014

14th March 2011

Dear Minister

We, the undersigned organisations, would like to express our support for the Life Conservationist Association of Taiwan in its opposition to the capture and display of another whale shark at the National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium.

We understand that the whale shark currently in captivity in that facility has now grown to such a size that it is being considered for release. We support this move, but we would entreat your government not to permit the replacement of this individual with more newly-captured animals.

Taiwan showed exemplary leadership in its 2008 law banning the killing and landing of whale sharks in Taiwan’s waters, as well as the sale of whale shark meat. Given the precarious global conservation status of whale sharks, we feel that it would be inconsistent if your Ministry were to grant permission for more whale sharks to be caught for public display.

As you are aware, the global record for maintaining whale sharks healthily in captivity is woeful. Not only is it highly inappropriate and risky to try to keep such a large, migratory animal in captivity, but there is also a risk attached to the release of such animals. It would be very sad to see Taiwan caught in a cycle of constantly catching and releasing a succession of whale sharks, some of which are almost certain to die, simply in order for the facility to make money. We would urge you, instead, to encourage the aquarium to develop a multi-media display that would help to educate visitors about the whale sharks’ life-history characteristics, migratory behaviour, ecology and conservation status, as well as the threats that they face.

We feel strongly that whatever “data” the facility may have gathered, it will not be of much importance to the international whale shark conservation community, since it will apply only to one individual in a totally artificial setting. Taiwan’s plan to tag and release more whale sharks, on the other hand, is to be applauded, and will, we believe, provide far more significant and meaningful data.

Yours respectfully,

Rebecca Chen

Wildlife 21

With the support of:

David Rowatt
Marine Conservation Society of the Seychelles

Chen Yue-Chia (Sue Chen)
鄭皓 Eric Cheng
Michael Skoletsky
Shark Savers

Petra Deimer
GSM – Society for the Conservation of Marine Mammals

Will Travers
Born Free Foundation

Peter Knights
WildAid

Susie Watts
Co-Habitat

Ralf Sonntag
International Fund for Animal Welfare

cc :

Sing-Hwa Hu
Deputy Minister
Council of Agriculture

James Sha
Director-General
Fisheries Agency
Council of Agriculture

Wang Wei-Hsien
Director
National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium