Fishermen Catch 280-Pound Hunk of Whale Vomit Worth $1.5M

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A fishing crew working off the coast of Yemen recently landed a 280-pound chunk of whale vomit which was valued at around $1.5 million.

A thirty-five-person fishing crew captured a sperm whale’s carcass while fishing in the Gulf of Aden. The crew determined that the carcass probably contained whats known as ambergris due to the more than overpowering scent of fecal matter.

The pungent substance is produced in the intestines of sperm whales but ironically it’s been used in perfumes, containing odorless alcohol that makes fragrances last even longer.

As the crew cut into the belly of the whale, they uncovered a big chunk of the rare whale vomit and sold it to someone in the United Arab Emirates for $1.5 million.

But it was so heartwarming to hear that splitting their profits, the fishermen donated a portion of their fortune to poor families in their community and the crew were taken away from poverty by their valuable find, purchasing new homes, cars and boats.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world due to years of conflict and many families have to survive through the fishing industry. It’s estimated that more than 220,000 people depend on fishing as their main source of income.

“It was an unimaginable price,” one of the fishermen told the BBC, “We are all poor. We never expected this thing would give us such a huge amount.”

Despite the fortune that comes with finding the “treasure of the sea”, controversy isn’t unheard of.

It’s now illegal in the U.S because even though whales are not usually harmed in the collection of the regurgitation, the substance is outlawed as it is produced by an endangered species, according to National Geographic.

Ambergris is thought to be developed when male sperm whales eat irritants and produce a rather slippery substance to protect digestive organs from offending particles.

But even though the Yemen fishermen didn’t do any harm to the whale that brought them their fortune, the search for ambergris can sometimes turn violent – not only to the whales but to each other. Christopher Kemp pointed to a case where an ambergris hunter ran over his rival on the beach.

Sometimes whales are killed during the extraction process as it can rupture their bowels in trying to collect the ambergris.

However, it’s a miracle that the fishermen found the ambergris on their journey as the “treasure” is usually found by coincidence, usually washed up on shore.

I don’t think the fishermen were expecting to find fortune out at sea that day, especially not through whale vomit, but it has changed their livelihoods for the better!