CHINESE police have arrested two fishermen in southwest China over the death of a whale shark which sparked outrage across the internet.
The men, identified only as Liao and Huang from Beihai, will be charged with hunting an endangered animal, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
The pair allegedly killed the whale shark and sold the meat for US$0.77 (about 5 yuan) per kilogram, although they told police they apparently found the shark “dead and decomposing”.
Images of the huge animal being strung up with a crane were spread online, sparking outrage and criticism from netizens and animal rights groups.
The Provincial Communist Party authorities said they will be investigating the local fisheries chief for “serious violation of discipline”.
Man detained for buying, killing a rare 370kg giant whale shark & selling it for ¥5 per kg in SW China's Beihai, Sat pic.twitter.com/SJlgPCe9bN
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) May 11, 2016
Story gone viral in China: Hours after being spotted near Chinese coast, Whale Shark slaughtered & hung in harbour. pic.twitter.com/2Z9K9xF19s
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) May 9, 2016
Some people deduced the shark allegedly killed by Liao and Huang was the same one seen in photos posted by oil rig workers in the same area, reports CNN.
The oil rig workers posted the photos last week on microblogging site Weibo, saying the whale shark was an “old friend” and usually visited them at the rig around this time of the year.
When photos of the dead shark surfaced, netizens were quick to link the two. One person commented on the Weibo post, saying it was a “tragedy of greed”.
Whale sharks, which are non-violent fish, are listed as”vulnerable”, just below “endangered”, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and are protected in China.
According to endangered animal laws, whale sharks must be set free if caught. As of 2014, the penalty for hunting, slaughtering, and selling an endangered species is no less than 10 years in prison, according to China Daily.