Following video footage of two fishermen riding on the back of a Whale shark, experts have warned people in Australia that this really isn't a good idea.
The film shows two tuna fishermen swimming with and hitching a ride on a 7m long shark for over 20 minutes off the coast of Queensland. It prompted the internet to be flooded with other people’s stories of their Whale shark riding exploits. See video below:
Ecocean Whale shark researcher Brad Norman however has been quoted warning that human interaction could influence the natural behaviour of these creatures as well as posing a health and safety risk to both humans and the fish.
"Basically there are some specific restrictions that really need to be adhered to, to minimise the impact humans have on the sharks, with the most blatant definitely being no touching, and no riding."
He also pointed out that whilst the sharks, which can grow up to 12m in length, don’t have teeth they do have a very powerful tail which could potentially knock someone unconscious causing them to drown.
He added: "There is a lot of concern about Whale sharks because they are a threatened species and their numbers have been in decline globally. They are quite vulnerable when they are at the surface from boat strikes, and they might migrate to areas where they are hunted, so if they are near the surface they are easy prey."
The point was made clearer by the fact that last week saw two stories of Whale sharks being injured in the Philippines in an area that has become known for the interactions between humans and the sharks. One where a Whale shark disappeared after being seen swimming with a spear in its back and a second where a Whale shark known as 'Lucas' was hit and seriously injured by the propeller of a boat carrying tourists and divers.
The Federal Government's Department of Environment added its voice to the warning: "While Whale sharks are protected under national environmental law it is not an offence to interact in Commonwealth waters," a spokeswoman said. "Members of the public are discouraged from this kind of behaviour as it may result in stress or injury."
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