Whale Shark Spotted Off Panama City Beach Coast

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Whale sharks are typically found in warmer water, like the Caribbean, Honduras, the Philippines, Western Australia and South Africa.

It's rare to see on one in the Northern Gulf, near Panama City Beach.

"It's like a joke among divers "Oh yeah did you see that whale shark'?," says Patrick Green with Panama City Dive Charters.

So it might take some proof by some members of the Panama City Beach dive community to convince others they saw one this weekend.

Fortunately they have the proof.

Captain Green spotted the whale shark Saturday about six miles off Shell Island in about 30 to 60 feet of water.

"When everyone figured out the captain was not kidding at all that there was a whale shark off the bow of the boat people were running and jumping off the boat and wet suits weren't on all the way it was a very exciting moment on the boat," says Green.

Despite it's name, the whale shark is a shark, not a whale.

It's considered to be both the largest shark and fish in the world.

Both green and seasoned boat captain John Luzny say every once in a while one can be spotted in our Gulf waters.

John Luzon with Better Bottom Time Dive Charters says, "You just have to be lucky to be where they're at," says Luzny.

They're usually make it this far north in the mid-to-late summer when the water is the warmest.

Even though he's out in the Gulf almost every day Luzny says it's been 15 years since he's seen one.

"Just to give you an idea of how large this whale shark was this boat is 36 feet and the whale shark they claim was about 30 feet so the whale shark's not much smaller than this boat," says Green.

Despite it's enormous size the whale shark is not dangerous to people.

Green says the experience of swimming with one will fuel his adventures spirit for at least the next couple months.

"It was great because I grabbed a hold of it and it was so much more massive than i am that it didn't even slow down it didn't like i was not there and insignificant to it," says Green.

Experts say whale sharks don't intentionally harm people, but have been known to unintentionally strike swimmers with their large tail fin.

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