Police arrest divers for riding whale shark in West Papua’s Cenderawasih Bay

Divers riding a whale shark in Indonesia. Photo: Twitter/@fishGOD

A recent viral video showing divers riding a whale shark in Indonesia sparked outrage in the country, leading to the reported arrest of the divers.

The video was posted on Twitter on August 9 by the frontman for the legendary Indonesian punk band Slank, Akhadi Wira Satriaji AKA Kaka (whose Twitter handle is, aptly enough, @fishGOD). It shows several divers surrounding a whale shark in West Papua’s Cenderawasih Bay, the largest marine national park in Indonesia. Two of the divers were filmed holding onto the whale shark’s back and another was holding on to its fin as the sea creature appeared to struggle to swim.

Kaka mentioned Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti in his tweet, and yesterday, she confirmed that police had arrested the divers in the video.

“It has been handled. The culprits have been captured,” Susi told Medcom yesterday. She did not reveal the identities of the culprits but some media outlets have reported that one of the divers is a renowned businessman from Makassar, South Sulawesi.

It’s not yet clear what charges the divers will face.

WWF Indonesia Campaign Coordinator Dwi Aryo Tjiptohandono said whale sharks are protected by law in Indonesia, where their numbers are limited. Despite the scary implication of the second part of their name, they are relatively slow, sluggish swimmers and feed on plankton and small fish, meaning they pose practically zero danger to humans. That said, humans are advised to stay away from them in order to not disturb their natural behavior patterns.

“If the whale shark is wounded or injured, that can lead to death,” Dwi Aryo told Kompas, adding that few female whale sharks have been spotted in Indonesia, causing further concern about their survival as a species in the archipelago.

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