An Iranian fisherman is experiencing backlash after posting a video that appears to show him leaping from a boat onto the back of whale shark in the Persian Gulf.
The video was shared to Rahmat Hosseini’s Instagram account on July 5 and alleges to show the fisherman “surfing” on the shark for nearly 20 metres off the coast of Bushire, Iran.
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At one point the shark appears to dive deeper below the water’s surface in an attempt to shake the fisherman off. But the tactic proved ineffective, as the man swims and gets back on the massive fish.
The video has received criticism online, with some viewers calling the stunt animal abuse.
Maryam Mirzaloo, an Iranian researcher in paleoceanography, told France 24 that there are particular rules on how boaters should approach whale sharks and that people should never touch them.
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“Even though the man did not want to hurt the animal, it could have caused a stressful situation that disorientated it and that is not good for its health,” Mirzaloo said.
Whale sharks are solitary animals that live around the globe in plankton-rich areas, including the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, off India, Australia, and the Philippines.
Whale sharks can exceed 12 metres in size and more than 11 tonnes in weight. The world’s largest known fish is considered a “vulnerable” species by the World Wildlife Fund.