Thai fishermen free whale sharks trapped in nets

Thai fishermen have gotten a bad reputation in recent years because of overfishing. But people around the world are hailing a group of Thai fishermen as heroes thanks to a viral video that shows them freeing three huge whale sharks trapped in fishing nets.

Whale sharks are a species that has variously been classified as under threat to critically endangered depending upon the location. Whale sharks are the largest member of the shark family and are the largest non-mammal fish. Gentle giants, they pose no threat to humans and are popular with divers and snorkelers.

According to ReReef, which describes itself as an “environmental and sustainability enterprise headquartered in Thailand with outreach in Southeast Asia,” a Thai fishing crew spotted the whale sharks about seven nautical miles off the coast of Krabi in the Andaman Sea.

The three sharks were struggling to free themselves from a large fishing net. The net did not belong to the vessel, named Chokprapakorn 1, that came to the rescue, and the fishermen saw no other boat in the area. They had no idea how long the whale sharks had been fighting to free themselves.

Several crewmembers dove into the waters and used their knives to cut the nylon net and liberate the creatures. The rescue took many minutes because the massive whale sharks were writhing and bucking while trying to get free, putting the crew members’ safety at risk.

The rescue off the coast of Krabi came about two weeks after other fishermen freed a whale shark in distress off the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.

That whale shark, swimming alone, had also become entangled in a net. It was spotted by a diver who alerted local fishermen. The fishermen then ventured out into the waters to find the shark and cut away the net.

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