Video has emerged showing an Iranian fisherman standing on the back of a whale shark to "surf" it as it dives slowly into the sea.
The video posted to Instagram earlier this month shows the young man stand astride one of the world’s biggest fish as it swims beside the fishing boat.
As the gentle giant moves away from the boat, another fisherman jumps on its head, forcing it under water.
Since the video was posted online on July 6 it has been viewed more than 24,000 times and drawn more than 1200 comments – many of them scathing of the young men’s actions.
“Idiot why would you do that?!” one wrote.
“This is ANIMAL ABUSE!!!” said another.
“You think that it liked the whale shark to have taken it for a surfboard? I do not believe! Respects a little more the nature and the animals which are there!! “ they added.
Others pointed out that the men were abusing an endangered animal for their entertainment
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists whale sharks, which eat krill and are docile in nature, as an endangered species.
Shark specialist at the US National Oceanic Administration John Carlson told Newsweek in 2015 it was “foolish to climb on the back of a 40-foot animal in the water” after a similar incident in Florida.
“They are very large, they turn very quickly, you can get stuck underneath it, you can be hit by a fin,” the marine biologist said.