Thrill-seeking divers are causing controversy by trying to ride endangered sharks off the coast of Israel, in what some are describing as an aquatic rodeo.
Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority (NPA) has taken strong exception to people trying this and has warned that penalties will be severe.
Ynet reports that the NPA has repeatedly warned that shark riding is illegal and dangerous, due to strong currents off the coast of the Haifa district and the sharks themselves,
Large numbers of sharks are known to gather in the vicinity of both the Orot Rabin Power Plant, Israel’s largest power station, and also the world’s largest desalination plant of its type just up the coast, particularly between November and April.
It is believed they are particularly attracted to the area due to the warm water outflows, and lack of danger from humans compared to other parts of the Mediterranean.
Authorities warn swimmers and divers to avoid the area while the predators are in the area.
“This is principally because the sharks are endangered. It is illegal to harm or harass them in any way,” the NPA told Ynet.
Also, the sharks are dangerous themselves. The authority describes any encounter with them as “unpredictable and uncontrollable”.
This is not the only time swimmers have attempted to ride sharks.
In August, a Saudi man went viral for his video where he rode a whale shark in the Red Sea. However, whale sharks are the largest species of shark and are harmless to humans.
The sharks off Hadera are mostly sandbar sharks and dusky sharks.
Sandbar sharks are not considered dangerous, but their large size means they can still pose a threat to wannabe cowboys.
Dusky sharks, however, are considered dangerous and the NPA most definitely recommends swimmers not approach them, never mind attempt to ride them.
They are also endangered. Studies suggest that dusky shark population numbers are only around 20% of their mid-1970s levels.
The dusky shark is endangered largely because it is still targeted for the trade in shark fin soup, with devastating results. Recent studies have suggested as many as 750,000 dusky sharks could be caught for their fins every year.