The picture shows a director of IDTechEx swimming with a Mexican whale shark this week. We do anything to catch a story! It is capable of diving to depths of at least 1,286 m (4,219 ft), and is migratory but most of the time it drifts along on the surface or near it at about 3mph/ 5kph. With its huge mouth open (the whale shark not the director). Ours were going round in circles guzzling fish roe and plankton.
In 2011, more than 400 whale sharks gathered off this Yucatan Coast of Mexico, ironically the world's largest crater caused by the meteor that caused the dinosaur extinction - bar a few that turned into birds and flew away in time. It was one of the largest gatherings of whale sharks recorded. Aggregations in that area are among the most reliable seasonal gatherings known for whale sharks, with large numbers occurring in most years between May and September. However, associated ecotourism has grown rapidly to unsustainable levels and whale sharks worldwide are being killed by large ships ploughing through them as they feed on the surface. They are also killed by the oil and pollutants emitted by large ships and others. We were told that last year's count showed a drop from 200,000 to only 70,000.
So what should be happening? We went to see them using the usual 500hp Yamaha outboard motors on our tourist boat because they were quite a way out. Nothing green about that, though larger boats are banned and there are strict rules of engagement. The tour operators could not afford to have RegenNautic 150 kW pure electric outboards because much of the boat would have to be battery to cover that distance and back.
The pollution situation with large ships is appalling. The 15 largest ships in the world emit as much nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide as the world's 760 million cars. The situation is getting worse because of larger ships and dirty fuel not tolerated on land. It is worse than the light aircraft industry irresponsibly being allowed leaded fuel. In addition, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) estimates that carbon dioxide emissions from shipping were equal to 2.2% of the global human-made emissions in 2012 and expects them to rise by as much as 2 to 3 times by 2050 if no action is taken.
Those large ships probably doing much of the killing of whale sharks should be electric with no emissions but such technology is still on the drawing board. No one is going to legislate that we go back to pure sailing boats but combinations of sails - preferably solar sails, wave power lifting the ship to reduce drag, large rotary wind turbines creating motive electricity, airborne wind energy for ships and more electrification are in prospect with plenty of cleaner fuels to choose from in the meantime. Unfortunately ships last for decades so we must have legal push. Indeed, even green large ships would still plough through the whale sharks because large ships could not turn in time even if they wanted to. The situation is not quite as bad as that of the surface feeding manatees in the Americas still being cut to pieces by small outboard motors of leisure boats but whale sharks are endangered. East Asians still kill them to eat their fins: they are very easy to catch. Go swim with them before it is too late.
Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: Electric Vehicles: Everything is Changing. Europe 2017 on 10 - 11 May 2017 in Berlin, Germany hosted by IDTechEx.