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Chinese fisherman's catch of a lifetime goes viral

Whale shark at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan
Whale shark at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan
Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

Chinese fisherman Cai Chengzhu could not believe his luck after landing a nearly 13-foot fish in Xiangzhi, Fujian province last week. After loading the monster on a tractor Cai drove to a local market where had hoped to sell it for 10,000-20,000 yuan, only to have his hopes dashed after being told that the giant was an endangered whale shark and could not be sold (let alone legally captured). While he may not have made any money at the market, Cai has become somewhat of a celebrity after photos of him transporting the giant fish have gone viral.

According to Cai, he and his shipmates were fishing in the sea between China and Taiwan when they felt their net suddenly become weighed down. However, as they began to pull it out of the water they saw that it had been torn by the whale shark, which they believe “broke it and got inside to eat the fish already trapped there. They also stated that they believe the giant died while struggling to escape.

Whale sharks are the largest known fish in the world, weighing in as much as some dinosaurs at 47,000-66,000 lbs, and growing as long as 46-feet or more. Despite their large size and mouths containing 300 to 350 rows of tiny teeth, whale sharks are not considered threats to humans. In fact, they are often so docile that they sometimes permit swimmers to hitch a ride. and primarily feed on plankton, krill, Christmas Island red crab larvae, small squid and other invertebrates as well as fish eggs and fish sperm.

In addition to their size, whale sharks are recognizable by they wide flat heads with two tiny eyes at the front, five pairs of gills, and distinctive yellow spots and strips (unique to each individual) on their gay skin (which can be up to 4 inches thick). Found in open tropical seas, these giant fish whale sharks live in open seas and can live for 70 years in the wild.