'Cruel' whale shark tagging sparks outrage

Pictures of a whale shark reportedly in distress as a result of a research tag have sparked outrage in the Maldives.

The pictures had been taken by some divers which showed a tag on the first dorsal fin of the gentle sea beast which remains a protected species in the Maldives.

One of the divers had shared the pictures on social media and said the tag had caused damage to the fin and the shark was struggling to move around. The shark was spotted on the surface of the water because it was finding it difficult to swim around, the diver had alleged.

The pictures show a menacing looking iron tag which looks as if it had been screwed to the fin of the shark.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ibrahim Naeem responded to the pictures saying that he was unaware of any whale shark tagging program and urged an immediate stop.

Some have claimed that the program was being carried out by a conservation group called 'Ecocean Whale Shark Research and Conservation'. But AVAS has been unable to confirm an official tagging program carried out by any locally based environmental groups.

Whale sharks are usually spotted in Alif Alif Atoll, Alif Dhaal Atoll and Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll. Several international conservation and marine research group are constantly active in these waters but their work are usually sanctioned by the EPA and the environment ministry.

A few years ago, accusations that whale sharks in the Maldives have been tagged and sold as pets to tourists had prompted an environment ministry investigation.