A video making the rounds on the internet this week depicts two swimmers harassing a whale shark, attempting to surf on the giant fish's back before it tries to eject them.
In the footage, the two unidentified men can be seen standing on top of the whale shark, holding a rope as they are towed by a boat. As the Dodo reports, the duo are clearly an annoyance to the giant whale shark, which submerges in just a few moments in an attempt to deter their actions.
Undaunted, one of the men waits at the back of the boat for the shark to surface. When it does, the animal approaches the vessel, and after a moment, the man swims out to it, climbing back aboard the whale shark and standing on its head. Agitating it further while he is cheered on by his boat-bound companions, the individual is forced to pull himself back using the rope when the shark again attempts to throw him off.
Though it is unclear where the video was filmed, harassing a whale shark is unfortunately not illegal in the United States. Whales and dolphins are protected from such interactions, however, a whale shark is technically classified as a fish, so the same consideration does not extend to them, as IFLScience points out.
Harassment like the kind observed in the video can nonetheless be dangerous to whale sharks, which require constant forward movement in order to continue breathing. The animals are also covered by a protective mucous layer that can be badly damaged by human interaction.
Full video of an idiot riding a whale shark https://t.co/aDLX7uuskc Don't do this you guys. pic.twitter.com/4XfafrNoQK
— David Shiffman (@WhySharksMatter) June 15, 2015
Earlier this year, a Florida teen made headlines when he and his girlfriend attempted to catch a ride on a whale shark. Though video of the incident revealed that the pair did not actually stand on top of the animal, they were dragged along by the shark's fin, an interaction that sparked controversy, as the Inquisitr previously reported.
U.K. based conservation group Marine Connection posted video of the whale shark incident on their Facebook page, expressing a deeply critical attitude toward the actions of the two men.
"Unbelievable footage of individuals 'surfing' a whale shark. What a sad reflection on their attitude to wildlife when, instead of considering themselves fortunate to see this majestic creature in the wild, they choose to participate in a stupid stunt like this (wonder if they would have done this with a great white shark?)."
Though the video at this time has been shared numerous times, receiving a bevy of comments expressing frustration and anger at the whale shark's treatment, it is unclear whether the men who attempted to surf on top of the animal will face any consequences.
[Photos by Marine Connection/ Facebook]