While it is illegal to ride, harass, capture, or harm a manatee in any way in Florida (as per the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act), illiciting 60 days in jail and a fine of $500, there apparently is no law regarding riding endangered whale sharks, much to the relief of Gulf of Mexico charter boat captain James Robert Bostwick. Bostwick, was sailing of the Florida coast earlier this month, when he spotted a 30-foot whale shark and decided to jump in the water, grab its dorsal fin and “go for a ride.” The event was video-taped by a friend and posted on Facebook.
Although he was never in danger of being eaten by the behemoth, (which like baleen whales eats plankton, not people), he still could have been seriously injured and killed, not to mention harming the animal’s 3.9 “ thick mucus-covered skin and affecting its overall health.
Found in tropical oceans, whale sharks can be seen anywhere from the Gulf of Mexico (where one of the largest gatherings, totally approximately 400 animals were spotted off the Yucatan Peninsula in 2011) to the Gulf of Oman; from Belize to Western Australia, and waters off the coast of Africa as well as near the Phillipines, etc. They are the largest species of fish on the planet, often growing to be more than 46-feet long and weighing in excess of 47,000 lbs (as much as some of the largest dinosaurs). In addition to their sheer size, whale sharks are recognized by their wide flat heads with two small eyes and nearly 5-foot long mouths full of 300-350 rows of tiny teeth. The animals are gray with white bellies and sport pale yellow spots and stripes in patterns unique to each individual animal. They also have a pair of dorsal and pectoral fins, as well as three prominent ridges along their sides.