Internet mass mobilization can be a fickle thing, as the general scorn toward “slacktivism” shows. But sometimes it can really bring a story to the fore and prompt reaction by policymakers.
When two fishermen from Beihai, Guangxi, shared photos of a dead whale shark being pulled out of the water out at sea and paraded, netizens lamented the killing of the majestic beast. Whale sharks are the world’s biggest fish, and are listed as “vulnerable” (second worst category, before “endangered”) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The outcry online led to an investigation from the local police, who apprehended the fishermen and questioned them. They defended themselves by insisting they had found the fish “dead and decaying” while out sailing. Why, then, the officers must have asked, would they have chopped the animal’s meat and sold it at a local market for RMB2.5 (USD0.4) per kilogram (2.2 lbs)?
Netizens also pointed out two photos posted by workers at an offshore oil rig a couple of days before the fishermen’s, showing a strikingly similar whale shark, swimming around, alive and well, which they called an “old friend” as it often swam by them.
The two are being charged with deliberately hunting the protected whale shark, which is against the law in China, while another two were arrested in association with the incident. The Guangxi Communist Party branch has also vowed to investigate local fisheries in order to crack down on such behavior.