Video showing divers riding endangered whale shark described as ‘deeply troubling’

Video showing divers riding endangered whale shark described as ‘deeply troubling’

Outdoors

Video showing divers riding endangered whale shark described as ‘deeply troubling’

Video footage showing scuba divers riding an endangered whale shark in Indonesia has been circulating via social media, generating harsh criticism among those who believe the divers’ actions represent animal cruelty.

Whale sharks, the planet’s largest fish species, are docile filter feeders often referred to as gentle giants. Proper dive etiquette is to observe and avoid contact.

The clip was first shared on Facebook last Thursday by Wayan Segara Bali, a RAID dive instructor in Bali, who wrote on Facebook: “These are not RAID divers nor a RAID Dive centre in this video. However we feel that action should be taken against the guides and the Dive Centre involved.”

In the footage, the whale shark appears to be in distress under the weight of divers as it tries to feed on plankton.

Proper dive etiquette is to observe without touching whale sharks

Ultimately, the outfitter was identified as Sea Safari Cruises, which offers diving and snorkeling adventures east of Bali. The footage was captured by an unidentified videographer in Cenderawasih Bay in Papua, New Guinea.

 

Moderators of the Bird’s Head Seascape Facebook page reached out to Sea Safari Cruises and received a statement that reads, in part:

“We in no way condone or approve nor facilitate this kind of interaction with marine life. When guests come onboard and before any diving activities commence there is an essential briefing regarding common accepted safe dive practices such as maintaining good buoyancy and not to disturb or harass the marine life.”

Whale sharks are an endangered species. Photo: Wikipedia

A separate briefing pertains specifically to whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay, a seasonal gathering spot for whale sharks.

The Sea Safari Cruises statement describes the whale-shark joy ride as “one of those regrettable incidents when experienced divers, with a higher certification level, decided on their own to not act according to the instructions in the dive briefing and not follow the guidance of the dive master.”

Bird’s Head Seascape accused Sea Safari Cruises as “passing the buck” by blaming the divers.

The video reached the Hawaii Uncharted Research Collective, which on Monday shared the clip on Facebook with a description that reads, in part:

“This is some of the worst in-water behavior we have seen with regards to human/whale shark encounters. These animals are considered to be endangered by the IUCN and this video is deeply troubling. We ask all of our supporters and ocean-goers statewide to be respectful of these animals in our waters and understand how our actions can greatly affect them.”

Whale sharks, which can measure to about 40 feet and weigh 20 tons, are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. They feed mostly on plankton and small fish.

Their migration patterns are somewhat mysterious, but there are several known gathering spots that have become popular dive destinations.

–Top image is a video screen grab. Second image is generic, via Wikipedia

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