A group of divers recorded riding a whale shark were arrested in Indonesia after a video showing their behavior outraged many viewers on social media.
On Aug. 9, Akhadi “Kaka” Wira Satriaji, the lead vocalist of the popular Indonesian rock band Slank, uploaded a video on Twitter. It showed a group of divers riding on a whale shark. He said the video was taken at the Cenderawasih Bay National Park in Papua. The person who shot the video was not named.
He also tagged Susi Pudjiastuti, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister and Forestry Minister Site Nurbaya Bakar in his post.
Pudjiastuti replied to the tweet by saying that riding the whale shark was illegal. She referred the case to Indonesian Police Chief Tito Karnavian, who is a member of the National Sea Guides, kompas.com reported.
Karnavian is known to be proactive in cases damaging to the environment, and was involved in the seizure of 50 tonnes of fish bomb material in April 2018.
Pudjiastuti said Monday that the divers involved had been arrested by the police.
Cassandra Tania, a marine species officer of WWF Indonesia, said in a media report that riding whale sharks is detrimental to both humans and the fish, given that the whale shark has sharp, abrasive skin that can cut divers.
She said she regretted that the tour operator did not give guidelines to divers for interacting with the endangered animal.
Whale sharks are currently the largest fish species on the planet. The average size of adults is estimated at around 9.8m, though there are many unconfirmed reports of specimens twice that size. The whale shark rarely poses any threat to humans as it feeds only on plankton which it catches by filtering sea water.