Since the discovery of the Megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) was made in Hawaii in 1976, I have been keeping records of all known specimens caught or encountered around the world. This is not an easy task as I know that not all catches get to be reported especially those from the Asian continent.... but thank God, things are changing.
Up until I write this, the list of known Megamouths stands at 246. Of these, only 28 sharks survived the encounter and swam happily away. The other 218 ended up either consumed, buried or put on display is some museum. You can find my full list here.
The country with the highest number of Megamouth catches is Taiwan. They are responsible for 152 catches out of which, only 4 were released alive. That is a shocking 61% of all known specimens. It was for this reason that EAST(Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan) last year launched a campaign to protect the Megamouth Shark. They also joined forces with fisheries to promote the catch and release initiative to facilitate the tagging of megamouth sharks for scientific research, with support from the Carrefour Foundation.
This campaign also got the support of other international entities, including Sharkman's World, that wrote to the Taiwanese government backing EAST's requests for stringent regulations to protect these endangered sharks.
Finally on November 10th. 2020, the Taiwanese authorities enacted laws that totally protect the Megamouth Shark. The restrictions require that all Megamouths caught in Taiwanese waters are to be returned to the sea, regardless of whether or not they are alive when caught. Fishing operators must report any catches to authorities on returning to port.
This conservation measure had positive results when two days ago, a Hualien-registered vessel caught a shark in their gill nets whilst fishing 2.77 nautical miles off the coast. The boat captain immediately ordered his crew to release the shark as soon as possible. The operation to untangle the shark lasted around 90 minutes and finally the estimated 4m female megamouth shark was set free. A crew member managed to film the release.
After being informed of the news, Carrefour Foundation CEO Marilyn Su pledged to donate a NT $5,000 voucher to the captain of the vessel as a reward for their actions. Deputy Chief Executive Yu-Min Chen donated several cases of drinks to the fishermen to celebrate the release, praising the crew for their conservation efforts.
My thanks to EAST for the translation of the reports. Great work from all those involved.