Two shark researchers who came face-to-face with what could be one of the largest great whites ever recorded are using their encounter as an opportunity to push for legislation that would protect sharks in Hawaii.
But some marine biologists are concerned the social media videos could have a negative impact on humans and sharks.
“I can’t believe that ‘please don’t grab the 18-foot long wild predator’ is something that needs to be explicitly said out loud, but here we are,” David Shiffman, a marine biologist who studies sharks, told The Washington Post.
Ocean Ramsey, a shark researcher and conservationist, told The Associated Press that she encountered the 20-foot shark Tuesday near a dead sperm whale off Oahu.
The event was documented and shared by her fiance and business partner Juan Oliphant on social media.
Michael Domeier, founding director of the Marine Conservation Science Institute, told the Washington Post he was unsettled by her “alarming” behaviour.
“More than 99 per cent of sharks are not dangerous. But that happens to be one that is very dangerous. If you want to talk about sharks being not dangerous, get your picture taken with a different species, not that one.”
He added that touching sharks in the wild is a “very ethical concern in the shark diving industry.”
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said it was aware of photos of the great white and that tiger sharks also have been feeding on the whale.
Oliphant, who photographed the now-viral images, said it’s unclear if the shark is the famed Deep Blue, believed to be the largest great white ever recorded.
Ramsey said she has been pushing for a bill that would ban the killing of sharks and rays in Hawaii for several years, and hopes this year the measure will actually become law.
— With files from Global News