Because population data are currently unknown, it is difficult for agencies to determine whether whale sharks are at risk. The IUCN Red List considers whale sharks vulnerable and their populations to be decreasing. Whale sharks are also listed in Appendix II by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning whale sharks potentially will need protection in the future. Fishing bans in many countries have been instated to help conserve this species. Efforts are also being made to educate fisherman, demonstrating that whale sharks are more valuable alive due to ecotourism and less valuable as a food source because of their slow rates of reproduction. Despite these efforts, poaching also still occurs, and many catches are simply not being reported. Other factors contributing to their conservation status include increased boat traffic (due to the sound and potential for being struck), damage to coral reefs, pollution, and global climate change.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable