Talk about making the most of an opportunity. A whale shark in the waters off Indonesia capitalized on the chance for an easy dinner by sucking fish straight out of a hole in a fishing net.
The close encounter was caught on video by Conservation International, a nonprofit environmental organization headquartered in Arlington, Va. The organization had been stationed in New Guinea to tag whale sharks in the region, according to ninemsn, a New Zealand branch of the online news network. Researchers initially struggled to tag the fish, but found that the whale sharks responded to feeding opportunities at Cenderawasih Bay.
In the video, the whale shark can be seen feeding on swarms of baitfish it retrieves through a hole in the net.
The whale shark, which is the largest fish in the sea according to National Geographic, is a filter feeder. It uses its huge jaw to suck in its food, via a technique dubbed "cross-flow filtration."
Its food of choice is plankton or small fish, though humans can risk getting sucked into the beast's mouth if swimming in the vicinity. Last summer, a photographer came close to getting swallowed in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, according to Discovery News.
While the sharks are considered gentle giants, the species is considered vulnerable, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ICUN). They continue to be hunted by harpoon fisheries in Southeast Asia and the population has become depleted.
According to advocacy group Oceana, sharks are threatened by finning, bycatch and fishing pressure.
"Of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 50 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, but only the white, whale and basking sharks are protected internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Sharks now represent the greatest percentage of threatened marine species on the IUCN Red List of threatened species."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referenced the National Geographic as stating the whale shark is "the fifth largest fish in the sea." However, National Geographic states that the whale shark is the largest fish in the sea "reaching lengths of 40 feet." This article has been corrected to include the accurate information.