An enormous whale shark, which is classified as an endangered species, was found stranded on the Visakhapatnam coast near Tantadi village. The giant 15-foot-long fish with its unique, cheetah-like spots was guided back into the sea by forest department officials. The incident happened on Tuesday, December 21, and videos of the whale shark being guided back into the ocean have now gone viral. Visakhapatnam District Forest Officer (DF) Anant Shankar said that the fish, which was stranded on the Tantadi beach, was observed by one of the department’s turtle base camp watchers.
“Since the beach was isolated, we called in more staff members and fishermen, who helped guide the whale shark back into the sea. Since there was low tide, we had to pour water over it to keep it alive, and then slowly it was taken back into the sea. It took around two hours for them to get this done,” the DFO told TNM. While the officials weren’t able to weigh the fish, it was around 15 feet long, he said.
The whale shark is the largest species of shark, and among the biggest fishes alive. They are listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which found in 2016 that growing human pressures were putting the species at an increasing risk of extinction. It is also a Schedule I species under The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, noted DFO Anant Shankar.
“We are trying to identify the route of this particular individual, by seeing if it has been recorded anywhere else. Individual whale sharks can be distinguished by their patterned spots on their skin. We have sent photos of this particular whale shark to research organisations and institutions working on identifying and tracking their movements. We are awaiting information from them,” he said.
The species is not uncommon in Andhra Pradesh, the DFO said, adding that it was rare, however, to find stranded whale sharks on the Visakhapatnam coast. In a similar incident in the past, a whale shark was found entangled in a net on the East Godavari coast, he said.