In the early morning hours of March 1, 2016, a huge black whale shark swam past a fishing boat in Brazil’s south-eastern Gulf of Carpentaria, killing two fishermen.
The incident prompted a wave of calls to authorities for more marine mammals in the region, prompting authorities to close beaches in the Gulf and put a moratorium on the killing of whales.
But marine biologists and conservationists are questioning whether the killer whale is an indicator of the situation, especially given the recent rise in the number of people and animals being killed.
“We know that the whale shark is a species that’s seen a significant increase in population,” says Mariana Ferreira, an expert in marine biology at the University of Sao Paulo.
“This is a major population boom in the area, and the killer whales are an important indicator of that.”
The killer whale, which can grow up to 10 metres (25 feet) long and weigh up to 250 kilograms (500 pounds), has been a focus of debate in the Brazilian government for several years.
In January, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said that the killer-whale would be considered a “species of concern” in a national action plan to control the marine mammals.
This month, the federal government proposed raising the maximum age limit for killer whales to 30 years old.
Brazil has a long history of the killer and its popularity with tourists has also grown over the years.
According to a survey conducted in 2016 by the government, more than one million people visited beaches in Brazil between January and May this year.
Some tourists are also hunting the animals, and authorities have banned the hunting of certain whales.
“The government should focus on marine mammals,” says Ferreiro.
“It should stop killing them.”