Some photos of a whale shark (Rhincodon typus) being tied up and “surfed” upon have been drumming up quite a bit of controversy on Facebook for over a week, now. Some major media outlets including the BBC recently picked up the story, as calls for better protection of the species have arisen due to the controversy.
According to the Cebu Daily News, the events took place in the waters of the barangay of North Granada, Cebu, Philippines. The whale shark had apparently become tangled in the nets of some local fishermen, who dragged the animal close to shore to untangle it. Before the shark was released several people posed with shark for photos, while it had a rope tied to its tail. An 18-year-old woman was photographed posing on top of the shark. The photographs were then posted to Facebook, where the online controversy ensued.
According to the Cebu Daily News article, those involved in posing with the shark did not know that they were doing anything wrong and did not think they were doing anything that could harm the shark. Those involved could face a penalty of 3 to 6 months in jail along with fines for mistreating an endangered species under Republic Act 9147.