07/17/2012 (Andres Jauregui). According to the Guardian, while performing radio-frequency tagging of whale sharks in Indonesia’s Cenderawasih Bay, a team of researchers from the nonprofit environmental organization Conservation International received a distress call from local fishermen. A pair of whale sharks had become ensnared in their nets.
The marine giants got tangled up as they fed on tiny bait fish near lift-net fishing platforms. Conservation International rushed to the scene and shot this amazing video of the rescue.
Despite their mammoth size, these docile sharks, the largest fish in the sea, are filter feeders. Researchers believe the prospect of easy prey has altered the behavior of the newly discovered whale shark population in the bay.
“The sharks are no longer content to wait outside the nets for a free meal, but increasingly swim right into them,” Dr. Mark Erdmann, senior advisor to Conservation Indonesia’s Marine Program, wrote in a blog post. “They have also learned how to ‘suck’ the fish out of holes in the nets.”
Erdmann wrote that the fishermen are interested in finding a solution to the problem of whale sharks becoming entangled, since the gentle sea beasts are considered good luck by Indonesian fishermen.
World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia, fishermen and local authorities told Erdmann that they will work together to modify the design of their lift nets in a way that will prevent the sharks from entering.
Following a successful satellite tagging mission in November 2011, Erdmann and his team, which included researchers from WWF-Indonesia, Hubbs Sea World Research Institute and the State University of Papua, successfully fitted radio-frequency identification tags to 30 whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay.