May 27th, 2016. JAKARTA (Kyodo) — Indonesia has arrested a Chinese businessman for poaching two whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish, for sale to a sea aquarium in China, a Cabinet minister said Friday.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti told a press conference that her ministry found the two whale sharks, each about 4 meters long, floating in nets at Kasumba Island in the eastern part of the country on May 22.
She said the docile, slow-moving, plankton-eating animals — which are sharks, not whales — were to be sold by PT Air Biru Maluku, a company jointly owned by the Chinese man and two Indonesian businessmen who were also arrested.
One of the company’s Indonesian employees, falsely claiming to be a member of a government task force on illegal fishing, told a team from Susi’s ministry that the whale sharks were part of a government-to-government exchange program between Indonesia and China.
That claim angered Susi, who said even if there were such a program, that would be no excuse for catching the whale sharks as the species is fully protected under a 2013 law.
“This is conservation. It has rules, our environmental protection law. Nothing can legalize what they have done,” she said.
Whale sharks are also included as a vulnerable species in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species that is compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Susi said Indonesia plans to revise its laws to impose heavier punishments for fishery-related crimes.
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean, usually growing to 12 meters in length, although a fully-grown whale shark can reach up to 20 meters long and weigh 20 tons.