Talk about the catch of the day.
A Chinese fisherman caught a massive whale shark in the waters off Fujian province over the weekend. Photos of the estimated 14-and-a-half-foot, 2-ton fish being transported to market through the streets of Xiaozhi have caused a bit of a stir in China, where the whale shark is endangered — and illegal to catch and sell.
But according to local media reports, Capt. Cai Chengzhu claims his fresh catch was an accident — and that the giant shark became stuck in his net and died while the crew was trying to release it.
“It’s believed that the giant creature broke the net and got inside to eat the fish we caught,” Chengzhu told local media, according to the Shanghaiist.
Chengzhu said he was hoping to get between 10,000 and 20,000 yuan for his fishy freight before he was stopped by Fujian fishery officials, the Independent reports.
“It was really unfortunate and we did our best to free it,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. “But having caught it and because it was already dead, it seemed a shame to waste it.”
Some critics quickly cast doubt on Chengzhu’s fish tale. Whale sharks are known as filter feeders and would not normally break into a fisherman’s net to eat fish.
The whale shark (or Rhincodon typus) was first discovered in South Africa in 1829. It is the largest known extant fish species and can get as long as 30 feet — twice as big as the one Chengzhu snared — and can live up to 100 years.