A Florida man was captured on video riding a 50,000-pound whale shark in the Gulf of Mexico last week, sparking controversy among animal activists.
Chris Kreis, 19, was fishing with friends about 30 miles off the shores of Captiva Island when they spotted the massive, 30-foot-long whale shark. Kreis jumped off the boat, grabbed hold of she shark's fin, and hitched a brief ride before swimming back.
"When I started holding on I felt the whale shark, it started moving itself," Kreis told NBC 2. "It didn't really want me on there so I let go."
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Marine biologist Bruce Neill said close physical contact with marine life can harm the animals and vice versa for humans.
"When people spend a lot of time and [put] a lot of pressure on a fish it takes away that slime covering and potentially has negative health impacts for the fish," Neill told NBC 2. "Because they are so very large, they could inflict some harm inadvertently."
Though whale sharks are not endangered and it is not illegal to touch them, some activists were still angry that Kreis bothered the so-called "gentle giant."
"Leave wild creatures alone,"
one person commented on ABC News' website. "They're not there for your amusement. Whale sharks are very gentle creatures and who knows what kind of stress you caused it."
"And there you have it! The complete lack of intelligence and conviction for protecting the ocean and all that dwell there," another person posted.
Last year, a Florida woman was arrested for violating the Manatee Sanctuary Act by riding one of the sea cows.
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