Video: Outrage as picture of girl 'surfing' on a whale shark emerges

Video: Outrage as picture of girl 'surfing' on a whale shark appears on FacebookFacebook

A picture that emerged on Facebook of a girl apparently "surfing" on a whale shark has sparked outrage across the globe.

The girl, Carinn Lestolis, was joined by her family and other tourists as they took pics of her on the whale shark's back.

But although she might have been having fun, environmentalists have pointed out that the whale shark was likely to have been highly stressed.

Fishermen tied its tale to a post while tourists patted it in the waters of Barangay Granada in Boljoon, Philippines.

According to Cebu Daily News, the three-metre shark had been caught in a net by fishermen.

Whale sharks are extremely friendly animals that eat tiny plants and plankton. Their easygoing nature has made them a huge tourist attraction in the Philippines but, while the country's official tourist board says people should keep at least three metres away from the animals, local fishermen have been increasingly known to lure the animals closer with food, for the pleasure of visitors.

According to the BBC, environmentalists have warned this could affect their migratory patterns.

Video: Outrage as picture of girl 'surfing' on a whale shark appears on FacebookFacebook

In this case, local fisherman Pablo Trapero claimed the shark had been dragged to shallow waters in order to be released, but a resident told the Sun Star that somebody had paid 100 pesos (£1.47) to tie it up for tourists to see.

Maylyn Avenido, from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the Philippines, said the whale shark was kept there for two and a half hours.

According to the Daily Mail, she told the Sun Star: "They touched the animal and stayed in the water with it. I told them once again to set the shark free or else I would call the police. It was only at that instance that they set the whale shark free."

She added that it had wounds on its tail and near its face.

The girl pictured on the whale shark's back said she did not realise it was wrong to touch the shark, only that it was illegal to harm them.

But marine biologist Agnes Sabonsolin, who works with Coastal Conservation Education Foundation (CCEF), said whale sharks, unlike whales, needed to keep moving to breathe through their gills.

The mayor of Boljoon, Teresita Celis, apologised about the incident and told the Inquirer News she would be pushing for tougher regulations to protect whale sharks.

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