For the first time in memory, whale sharks have been found just off the coast of Sarasota. Traditionally living in deep Gulf waters far from shore, Mote Marine Laboratory researchers theorize that the oil pollution from the failed Deepwater Horizon may be driving these giant creatures from their natural habitats and into more shallow waters in a desperate bid to escape fouled sea water.
As the largest species of the fish kingdom--sometimes reaching 40 feet and close to 20 tons--these gentle behemoths feed on plankton and other small sea life and pose no threat whatsoever to humans. In fact, they are docile enough for close interaction with humans, actually allowing swimmers to ride on their backs as they glide just beneath the waves.
In response to this remarkable news, the Sarasota County Convention Bureau, never ones to let a marketing opportunity pass them by, have hurriedly organized the Suncoast's "1st Annual Whale Shark Fishing Tournament." First prize of $10,000 will go to the crew of the vessel who drags the bloodied, lifeless carcass of the largest whale shark killed onto the docks at Marina Jack's. In a decidedly ironic twist--for the whale sharks, at least--the prize money for the contest is being donated by BP through a grant from their $20 billion dollar emergency fund.
Conservation groups are outraged by the notion of subjecting a threatened species to even more devastation of the species by humans. Explained one Sarasota Visitor Bureau spokespromoter, "Look, we've squeezed all we could out of that whole 'eco-tourism/save the planet' angle and were looking to go in another direction anyway when these whale sharks got dropped right into our laps. Talk about catching a lucky break! First, BP hands us bucketfuls of money for screwing up the Gulf for all eternity, then, it's BP's oil that's driving these whale sharks straight onto our beaches and into our bank accounts! We stand to make more money from this than if we would have let BP drill right on Siesta beach!!"
Local restaurants have already begun to cash in on the arrival of the friendly creatures and are currently serving up whale shark on their menus, from the Ritz-Carlton's Filet of Whale Shark with Baked Celeriac, Snail Beignets and Girolles to the New Pass Bait Shop and Grill's Fried Whale Shark Sandwich with Fries and Slaw to Captain Curt's New and Improved Award-Winning Clam Chowder, Now Made With Real Whale Shark. Said Beneva Stickney of the New Pass eatery, "Them Whale Shark Sandwiches have been a real big seller for us. We buy it by the truckload. I mean, those babies weigh--what--15 tons or something, right? That's a whole lotta fish to fry, my friend. And they say they're practically washing up on the beach....."
Local angler, Howard "Hook 'em Howie" Frabersnitz, prepares to gaff an exhausted whale shark and tow it into shallower water in order to kill the gentle creature by an agonizingly-tortuous method of suffocation.