It was this big! No, really! Fishermen catching anchovies in Indonesia were shocked to discover a juvenile Whale shark measuring 4m/13.3' in their net.
The fishermen were using a stationary net in Karimunjawa National Park off the coast of Java when they discovered the Whale shark among their catch.
Fortunately the World Conservation Society (WCS) has set up an SMS 'hotline' system for people to report fishing violations and marine animal strandings to park authorities, so the fishermen — who were worried about getting into trouble for accidentally catching the shark and weren't sure how to go about releasing it properly — sent a text to alert staff from the Karimunjawa National Park Authority and WCS.
Staff members from both the park authority and WCS soon arrived and the Whale shark was safely released.
The SMS system has led to a remarkable increase in compliance with fishery closures throughout the park, and prosecutions for illegal trawl fishing, which had previously decimated local fish populations.
Whale sharks have not been common in the area over the past decade, but the presence of this juvenile may be a sign of ecological recovery in Karimunjawa waters.
Data from WCS and government agencies shows a 50% increase in local fish populations over the past three years, and this could be bringing Whale sharks back into the area. These gentle giants consume tiny prey such as plankton and small fish.
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, reaching lengths of 12m/40' or more.
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