Another gentle giant of the sea is dead.
After fishermen discovered a massive whale shark unconscious offshore 10 days ago, the 40-foot-long, seven-ton fish was finally pulled out of the water in Karachi on Tuesday, CBS News reports. At least five cranes were used to lift the giant carcass, as a crowd of curious onlookers stood by. The shark was later sold for its meat for 1.7 million rupees, the equivalent of $18,000.
The Post’s Juliet Eilperin, author of the book “Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks,” said it is unusual for an injured whale sharks to wash up on shore. But Mote Marine Laboratory scientist Robert Hueter wrote in an e-mail Wednesday that young whale sharks do show up swimming off the coasts of India.
Whale shark hunting is banned in many countries in Southeast Asia, and yet the giant fish continues to be highly sought after. TRAFFIC International recently placed Pakistan as 12th among the shark exporting countries in the world.
Whale sharks “play a game of Russian Roulette passing through ... the waters of nations like Bangladesh, where they are still not protected and ruthlessly hunted,” a scuba diver who swims with whale sharks noted recently on his blog.
Although whale sharks may seem imposing, they are a gentle fish that do not strike divers who swim alongside them.
Whale sharks have also increasingly been found mutilated with their fins cut off, left by their hunters to die. In October, Eilperin reported on newly released photos by the Pew Environment Group, which showed rows and rows of fins in Taiwan, as far as the eye could see. The photos “suggest that Taiwan, which reports the fourth-largest shark catch in the world, is an even greater player in the international shark trade than previously thought,” Eilperin wrote. Whale sharks are known as “tofu fish” in Taiwan because of the taste and texture of their flesh.
The market has taken its toll. In 2005, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources declared the global whale shark population “vulnerable.” By 2008, the shark had been moved to the organization’s red list, which is reserved for threatened species. Population trend: Decreasing.
This is not the first time a massive sea animal has been hauled ashore in Karachi. Last September, a 25-foot-long dead whale washed onto the beach. It, too, was sold for a sizable sum: 100,000 plus rupees, or more than $2,000, though that is not as much as would be fetched by a precious whale shark.
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