Man hitches a ride on a whale shark

NOKOMIS BEACH, Fla. -- A charter captain goes on a fishing trip 16 miles off Venice Beach and does more than just catch "the big one." And it's big all right. The fish is a whale shark and gave him the ride of a life time.

As a charter captain Jamie Bostwick, is on the water nearly every day but last Friday he spotted a fish that has given him a whale of a story to tell. "The fish was as big as the boat 30 feet long," Bostwick said

Bostwick and his friends saw the largest fish in the world -- a whale shark. He says, "The whale shark was as curious about us as we were about it."

And swimming with one has been on Bostwick's bucket list so he jumped in, grabbed the shark's fin and hung on for the ride. "Such a majestic large animal," Bostwick said. He also posted video on his Facebook page.

Was he scared? "Never, never one of the most docile animals I came across," he said.

Unlike the time when a woman made national headlines after she jumped on the back of a manatee a few years ago, Bostwick's trip on the whale shark is not illegal.

The whale shark is a plankton eater it's not threatening to humans.

"They can't hurt you but we can hurt them with too much contact," says Dr. Bob Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory.

Hueter says whale sharks are protected and they are protected and cannot be caught, molested or harassed. While he says it's OK to swim with them from about 6 feet away, he doesn't recommend touching them although it's not illegal.

"The problem with touching them is they have a mucous layer on the skin that is disturbed when touched too much it can compromise the health of the animal in the long run," said Hueter. Touching the fish can expose them to infection and disrupt their eating pattern if they are feeding at the time.


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